Specialized airpower – anytime, anyplace
After seven years spent engaging U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) to understand their Special Operations Forces aircrew protection needs, BAE Systems eyes the finish line: by the end of the year, USSOCOM will choose between BAE Systems and Northrop Grumman for the sole contractor for the AC/MC-130J RFCM program.
With one of the most-dangerous mission profiles in the sky, stakes are high when developing a mission-ready radio frequency countermeasures electronic warfare (EW) system for the U.S. Special Operations Command.
In a year-long source selection with Northrup Grumman, BAE Systems knows its team can deliver a proven system in the customer’s accelerated timeline to achieve a rapid Initial Operating Capability schedule.
The AC/MC-130J Radio Frequency Countermeasures (RFCM) system must be able to detect and defeat threats in the battlespace beyond a pilot’s line of sight; USSOCOM selected BAE Systems in November 2015 to execute a 12-month base design contract, which will culminate in a Critical Design Review.
A final down-select announcement is expected at the end of 2016.
Richard Tucker, director of BAE Systems’ AC/MC-130J RFCM program, described the program as a series of sprints from one milestone to another.
“Our team worked really hard to put forward a highly capable and mature solution,” said Tucker. “Everyone involved should be extremely proud of their contributions. Once the award announcement was made, we were on contract and working within 24 hours. Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) needs this capability fast, and it shows in their speed to action. We’re matching their pace – the team celebrated the win, but, the next day, began execution.”
Efforts to understand the customer’s needs and develop BAE Systems’ solution began seven years ago with Business Development manager Mike Watkins paving the way.
“We started the process for USSOCOM AC/MC-130J RFCM back in 2009,” said Watkins. “We began meeting with USSOCOM and AFSOC to discuss the systems we could provide to aide its missions. Our customers are in-tune with the threats they are up against – they know them better than anyone else. They know what they need, and it’s up to us to explain what technology we can provide within their cost and schedule constraints.”
Jim Bory, lead engineer for the BAE Systems’ AC/MC-130J RFCM program team, believes the company is in a great position to deliver a premier EW system to protect aircrews in the most-sensitive and hostile territories.
“As the EW provider for a multitude of penetrating platforms, we have developed technology that is adaptive to constantly evolving threats,” said Bory. “Our engineers are looking at threats with our customers every single day on our platforms including the B-1, B-2, F-15, F-16, F-22, F-35 and U-2. Every day, the threats are changing.”
Changing threats are not the only challenge facing customers today. Budget constraints also make system affordability critical to program success.
“In a tight budget environment, commonality can be huge,” said Watkins. “Due to BAE Systems’ active U.S. Air Force programs, the USSOCOM AC/MC-130J RFCM program will benefit from ongoing investments in Diminishing Manufacturing Sources resolution and capability improvements in common building blocks used across our systems.”
Despite its past experience in the EW market, the BAE Systems’ AC/MC-130J program team realizes there will be many challenges to overcome these next nine months to be the last company standing at the end of 2016.
“It’s all about deeds, not words,” said Bory. “We’re working hard every day to prove that we’re the right contractor to deliver capability to Special Operations Forces.”
Added Watkins: “These guys need protection more than anyone else in the field. There is a uniqueness and urgency to their missions. Our top priority is to deliver an EW system to our nation’s operators that enables them to complete their mission and return home safely every time.”
By Nicole Gable, Communications, Nashua, New Hampshire