Best and final offers were submitted last week for the Government’s £750m airborne stand-off radar (Astor) programme, which could secure several thousand jobs in the UK.
Three teams led by Lockheed Martin, Raytheon and Northrop Grumman have put in bids for the £750m project to equip the RAF with up to five Astor aircraft and the British army with up to nine ground stations.
The Astor aircraft will build up a radar picture of hostile troop movements which can then be passed in ‘realtime’ to army ground stations.
Though the prime contractors for each team are American, the teams include several British firms.
Lockheed Martin’s ‘TeamAstor’ includes Racal, GEC-Marconi, Marshall Aerospace and MSI, while Raytheon’s team also includes GEC-Marconi, plus Shorts and Thomson-CSF. Northrop Grumman’s team includes British Aerospace and CDC’s Hastings-based operation, among other firms.
Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman have chosen the Gulfstream V business jet as the aircraft to carry their radars, while Raytheon has opted for the Global Express. Both types would be powered by BMW-Rolls-Royce engines.
Pressure from Washington enabled Northrop Grumman’s J-Stars solution to re-enter the Astor competition under the new name ‘Wizard’ despite being eliminated on technical grounds at a previous stage of the contest. The team said its bid will allow Britain to gain access to secret US technology under a government-to-government cooperative development programme.
Lockheed Martin’s previously agreed bid to take over Northrop Grumman is still before the US Securities Exchange Commission and the two companies are currently forbidden from talking to each other about their businesses or the projects they are competing for, Lockheed Martin said.
With final bids in, an actual Ministry of Defence decision or order is not expected until the end of the year.