Tuesday, January 10, 2012

DoD OKs Army's $5.7B Aircraft Survivability Effort

The Pentagon has signed off on the U.S. Army's plan to spend $5.7 billion on anti-missile defenses for helicopters.
THE PENTAGON HAS signed off on a $5.7 billion anti-missile defense plan for helicopters like this CH-47. (Sgt. Dennis W. Jackson / U.S. Army)
In a Dec. 28 memo, acting Pentagon acquisition chief Frank Kendall gave the service permission to begin the technology development phase for the Common Infrared Countermeasure (CIRCM) program.
Infrared countermeasures are used to confuse incoming missiles' guidance systems and thereby protect aircraft from being hit.
Attached to Kendall's memo was a cost chart for the CIRCM program produced by the Defense Department's Cost Assessment Program Evaluation (CAPE) office, a group within the Office of the Secretary of Defense that provides independent cost estimates and advice for DoD decision-makers.
According to the chart, the total acquisition cost for the program is $5.7 billion. That includes $815 million for research and development, $3.3 billion for procurement and $1.6 billion in operation and support costs.
Kendall says the Army is to keep funding for the program under $225 million per year. Procurement of the systems does not begin to ramp up until 2017, according to the CAPE chart.
CAPE has estimated an average unit procurement cost for the system of $2.5 million.
Kendall's memo indicates that he has also approved the criteria that will be used to determine whether the program has successfully completed its development phase.
There are several companies competing for the technology development part of the program, including Northrop Grumman, BAE Systems, ITT, Lockheed Martin and Raytheon.
CIRCM is intended as an improved, lighter-weight version of Advanced Threat Infrared Countermeasures (ATIRCM), which was canceled and restructured after the Pentagon and Army officials determined the ATIRCM system to be too heavy for any helicopter other than the CH-47 Chinook.
After this discovery, the Pentagon and Army decided to reduce the ATIRCM buy, causing a breach of the Nunn-McCurdy statute, which requires the Pentagon to notify Congress when major defense programs experience substantial cost growth.
The Army declared a critical Nunn-McCurdy breach for ATIRCM in March 2010.
However, the Army was given permission to buy 83 ATIRCM systems to respond to an urgent request for CH-47s flying in Afghanistan.

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