By Ann Roosevelt

Northrop Grumman [NOC] yesterday said it will lead a team to compete for the Army’s Aerial Common Sensor (ACS), an airborne platform that will provide the warfighter with actionable intelligence, reconnaissance, surveillance and target acquisition capability.

Northrop Grumman’s ACS team includes AAI Corp. [TXT], General Dynamics [GD], and L-3 Communications [LLL].

“The deadliest weapon the U.S. Army can give its warfighter is knowledge of the enemy’s whereabouts and intentions before he knows he’s been detected,” Jerry Agee, corporate vice president and president of Northrop Grumman’s Mission Systems sector, said in a statement. “Combining best-of-industry capabilities with extensive multi-intelligence operation domain knowledge, this team can provide the Army an affordable, low-risk solution built on battle-proven technology. The Army’s vision for ACS is achievable, and Northrop Grumman’s ACS team is ready now to provide our soldiers a coherent tactical picture unlike any previously available.”

ACS is to be a unique, next-generation intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and target acquisition aircraft, which will–from the moment it arrives over the battlefield– provide commanders in theater and troops on the ground with critical situational intelligence. ACS will detect troop movements and intercept communications and radar transmissions, allowing the Army to direct dominant and deadly firepower before enemy forces know they’ve been detected.

In January 2006, an $879 million ACS system development and demonstration contract to Lockheed Martin [LMT] was terminated because the ACS payload was essentially too heavy for the chosen air platform (Defense Daily, Sept. 5, 2006).

Since the contract cancellation, the Army poured more money into upgrades for the Guardrail Common Sensor and Airborne Reconnaissance-Low System, both developed by Northrop Grumman, to provide a capability for the war on terror (Defense Daily, July 26, 2006). Northrop Grumman leads a team including Lockheed Martin, L-3 and Zeta Associates on the upgrades, which fall under a five-year, $462 million contract with one five year option.

Northrop Grumman brings decades of experience in designing, developing, and integrating airborne command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (C4ISR) platforms and sensors and will leverage its broad experience integrating complex mission equipment requirements across a broad range of C4ISR platforms to serve as prime contractor and overall systems integrator for ACS, the company said.

Steve Reid, vice president of unmanned aircraft systems for AAI, said: “AAI brings to this effort a successful history of designing, manufacturing, and servicing unmanned reconnaissance, surveillance, and target acquisition systems, as well as advanced ground control station and interoperable network technologies. Working with this prestigious team, AAI will align its unmanned technologies with manned aircraft assets to deliver essential intelligence capabilities to the warfighter.”

Manny Mora, vice president of Battle Management Systems for General Dynamics C4 Systems, said: “General Dynamics has a strong heritage in developing and maintaining air, ground and maritime intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance systems for the military. This expertise combined with our proven battle management, information security and training capabilities will enhance the development of the ACS system.”

Bob Drewes, president of L-3’s Integrated Systems Group, said: “The complexity of the future threat environment depends on near-real time multi-source intelligence. ACS, networked with the Army’s Distributed Common Ground System and family of systems intelligence capabilities, will provide that actionable information, and our partnership with Northrop Grumman, AAI and General Dynamics is the right one to deliver that full capability. L-3 has unequaled systems integration experience in intelligence aircraft and is proud to join our partners in this pursuit.”