Air Force to Kick Off E4‑B Replacement Competition in 2021

 In GDI, Defense, Sea, Infrastructure, Air

E‑4B “Doomsday” plane

WASHINGTON: The Air Force intends to issue the first con­tracts for replac­ing the ven­er­a­ble E‑4B “Doomsday” plane in 2021, with a budget of $76.4 mil­lion — more than six times the $12.7 mil­lion approved by Congress in 2020.

Service budget jus­ti­fi­ca­tion doc­u­ments (look at PE 0604288F) show a five-year fund­ing plan of $634.6 mil­lion for recap­i­tal­iza­tion of the ser­vices four E‑4B National Airborne Operations Center (NAOC) air­craft that pro­vide air­borne nuclear com­mand, con­trol and com­mu­ni­ca­tions (NC3) in the event of a nuclear war or anoth­er major cat­a­stro­phe destroy­ing ground-based NC3 infra­struc­ture. Those air­craft, which also keep the Defense Secretary con­nect­ed when trav­el­ing over­seas, date to the 1970s and are based at Offutt AFB in Nebraska. Donald Rumsfeld tried to shut­ter the fleet back in 2006 but there just aren’t other air­craft capa­ble of doing what the E‑4B can.

DoD’s Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation (CAPE) office launched an analy­sis of alter­na­tives (AoA) last year “to assess mis­sion sets and plat­forms across E‑4B (NAOC), C‑32A (Executive Airlift), and the Navy’s E‑6B (ABNCP/TACAMO), known as the ‘NEAT’ AoA.” That study is expect­ed to be com­plet­ed this year.

The NEAT AoA stemmed from ear­li­er stud­ies, launched in 2015 by the Joint Staff, about how to mod­ern­ize the aging NC3 air­borne fleets main­tained by the Air Force and the Navy. Those stud­ies focused on poten­tial syn­er­gies in efforts to recap­i­tal­ize the E‑4B; the Navy’s E‑6B Mercury that pro­vides C2 for nuclear sub­marines; the VC-25 cur­rent­ly used as Air Force One; and the C‑32A, a souped-up Boeing 757 used for DoD exec­u­tive trans­port. As a result, DoD began con­tem­plat­ing merg­ing the E‑4B and E‑6B air­craft into a single new fleet, a con­cept called the Survivable Airborne Operations Center (SAOC.)

C‑32A exec­u­tive jet inte­ri­or

On Dec. 4, the Air Force announced it would hold an indus­try day in February for the ‘SAOC Weapons System’ — explain­ing that this “new, cost-effec­tive, com­mer­cial deriv­a­tive air­craft” would replace the E‑4B. This is to include new mis­sion sys­tems, includ­ing a modern com­mu­ni­ca­tions sub­sys­tem, net­works sub­sys­tem, and advanced com­mand and con­trol (C2) sub­sys­tems.

That announce­ment was updat­ed Feb. 6, set­ting Feb. 12 – 13 as the date for the indus­try meet­ings at the MITRE Complex at Hanscom AFB. The announce­ment also offered inter­est­ed firms a clas­si­fied draft sys­tems require­ments doc­u­ment (SRD) for their feed­back.

The Air Force intends to “com­plete required doc­u­ments and activ­i­ties nec­es­sary to issue a Request for Proposal (RFP) to begin recap­i­tal­iza­tion of the E‑4B plat­form. Issue solic­i­ta­tion to indus­try for the award of up to two con­tracts as part of phase one of a two phased down-select acqui­si­tion strat­e­gy,” accord­ing to the budget doc­u­ments.

The RFP will be fol­lowed in 2021 with “com­pet­i­tive con­tract awards” for pre-engi­neer­ing, man­u­fac­tur­ing and devel­op­ment (EMD) activ­i­ties such as work­ing with the gov­ern­ment to devel­op a com­plete SRD, and risk reduc­tion stud­ies includ­ing for elec­tro-mag­net­ic pulse (EMP) hard­en­ing.

Meanwhile, the Air Force has bud­get­ed $9.9 mil­lion in 2021, and a total of $40.2 mil­lion through 2024, under PE 0401310F “C‑32 Executive Transport Recapitalization” to help finish the NEAT AoA. The doc­u­ments note that this fund­ing also “con­tin­ues estab­lish­ment of the Program Office and matures the devel­op­ment of the acqui­si­tion strat­e­gy. Funding also sup­ports cost/performance trade stud­ies and risk reduc­tion activ­i­ties.”

Source: Breaking Defense

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