June 25, 2018

$866 million contract sustains 6 missile warning radars

Capt. Duane Lankford
Peterson AFB, Colo.

A close up view of the face of the Perimeter Acquisition Radar Attack Characterization System. At Cavalier Air Force Station, N.D. This view shows transmitters that send and receive space and missile data. The PARCS is a ground-based Integrated Tactical Warning/Attack Assessment Sensor, an important component of the national military command system.

The U.S. Air Force awarded a contract to Northrop Grumman June 1, 2018, to provide sustainment and maintenance for six radars throughout the northern hemisphere.

The contract, awarded by the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, directly supports the continued operations of the Ballistic Missile Early Warning System (BMEWS), PAVE Phased Array Warning System (PAVE PAWS) and Perimeter Acquisition Radar Attack Characterization System radars. The radars are responsible for ballistic missile warning and defense for the continental United States, among other missions. The $866 million, single-award, indefinite delivery indefinite quantity sustainment and modification of radar sensors, or SMORS, contract period is five years, costing an estimated $150 million per year.

“This new contract will focus on long-term missile warning, missile defense and space situational awareness, ensuring mission availability through improved depot-level sustainment services and upgrade projects to modernize the systems,” said Col. Todd Wiest, senior materiel leader for AFLCMC’s Strategic Warning and Surveillance Systems Division.  “The U.S. and its allies are relying on these improvements to continue safeguarding them from nuclear and space threats around the world.”

The interconnected systems are located at Thule Air Base, Greenland; Clear Air Force Station, Alaska; Royal Air Force Fylingdales, United Kingdom; Beale Air Force Base, California; Cape Cod Air Force Station, Massachusetts and Cavalier Air Force Station, North Dakota.

The centralized, depot-level sustainment services and modification projects include upgrades. To accomplish this, the division has a dedicated team of Airmen, government civilians and contractors working with personnel at each site, the 21st Space Wing, Air Force Space Command and Missile Defense Agency. The program office built approximately $100 million into the contract to take care of immediate modification requirements. The remaining $750 million will be used at the program office’s discretion over five years in $150 million per-year increments.  

The Air Force designed these sites and installed them during the Cold War primarily to detect and track intercontinental ballistic missiles and sea-launched ballistic missiles while also conducting general space surveillance and satellite tracking.  The systems work together to provide missile warning and attack characterization to the United States’ Missile Warning and Space Control Centers, the Integrated Tactical Warning/Attack Assessment system and the U.S. National Military Command Center and U.S. Strategic Command. The systems send satellite tracking data to the Joint Space Operations Center in support of the space surveillance mission.

The radars are also undergoing upgrades separate from this sustainment award. Upgraded BMEWS and PAVE PAWS radars provide data to the nation’s Ballistic Missile Defense System. Beale, Fylingdales, and Thule have already been upgraded and Clear and Cape Cod are in works.

“Our team has worked tirelessly to reach this major milestone and announce the award of the SMORS contract,” said Wiest. “We’re very pleased to work with the contractor over the next five years to maintain the readiness and operational capability of these mission-critical radars.”

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