The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) on Tuesday issued a solicitation for the next round of purchases of its advanced carry-on baggage scanners for airport checkpoints to include enhanced screening lanes.

The Request for Proposals (RFP) for the checkpoint computed tomography (CT) systems comes about a year after initial deployments of the first 300 CT scanners began under a $97 million contract with Smiths Detection awarded in spring 2019. Deployments under that award were delayed due to a protest by a losing bidder that was ultimately unsuccessful, and because of the ongoing pandemic.

The RFP is for up to 305 systems. TSA has said it plans to purchase upward of 2,400 checkpoint CT scanners, which are the agency’s top acquisition priority, to replace the current Advanced Technology X-ray systems used to screen carry-on bags.

The CT systems give Transportation Security Officers a 3D view of a bag’s contents, improved resolution, and the ability to virtually rotate the bag, allowing users to look at areas or items of concern from multiple angles. The new systems allow travelers to leave their electronics and liquids inside their bags thereby improving the passenger experience, and the 3D images and improved resolution mean less need for manual bag searches.

TSA also expects to be able to upgrade the CT systems with algorithms to enable automated detection of prohibited items, speeding throughput and allowing officers to only concern themselves with resolving alarms on the suspect bags.

The initial 300 systems, which are expected to complete installations in early 2021 to 120 airports, are configured to work with the existing screening lane infrastructure. The next round of CT systems that will be purchased will include new screening lane infrastructure called Automated Screening Lanes (ASLs).

The ASL features sought in the solicitation include auto-diverter subsystems to physically separate suspect bags for secondary inspection away from the primary retrieval table so that passengers can’t retrieve a bag until additional screening has been done. The ASLs will also include multiple divest stations so that multiple passengers can unload their belongings simultaneously, and powered ingress and egress conveyors to transport bags into and out of the scanners.

The RFP had been expected over the summer. An award is expected in July 2021. The RFP says that TSA could make multiple awards.

Analogic, Integrated Defense & Security Solutions, Leidos [LDOS] and Smiths Detection are competing for the checkpoint CT awards.

Congressional appropriators that oversee the Department of Homeland Security’s budget are strong supporters of the CT technology. Senate appropriators are recommending $140 million in fiscal year 2021 for checkpoint CT systems and House appropriators $75 million. The request is for closer to $29 million.

TSA Administrator David Pekoske on Wednesday during a virtual agency industry day highlighted that both the Senate and House appropriations committee markups of the DHS budget are “very supportive” of his agency in two regards, workforce and technology investment.