Air Force Slates $950M For ABMS Tech; 28 Vendors « Breaking Defense

Air Force Slates $950M For ABMS Tech; 28 Vendors « Breaking Defense

Advanced Battle Management System Overview

WASHINGTON: The Air Force has slated $950 million to rapidly acquire technology from 28 firms, some behemoth defense contractors and others are Silicon Valley startups, over the next five years to support its ambitious Advanced Battle Management System (ABMS) for future joint all-domain operations.

The funds have been lumped together in “indefinite-delivery, indefinite quantity” (IDIQ) contracts, which means it is unclear how much will go to any one of the vendors for what technology. Rather, the macro-contract allows those firms to pitch the Air Force their wares and the service to make snap — well, snappish — decisions once a technology is demonstrated.

“All an IDIQ is is a hunting license to sell to the US,” explains defense industry guru Bill Greenwalt. He said that the benefit is that acquisition under IDIQs can be processed much faster than the average two-year timeframe it takes to negotiate most DoD contracts. How it works, Greenwalt added, is that  individual task orders are issued” under the contract that then take a few weeks to process — depending on the individual deal underway.

“Regardless, it is light years faster than starting from scratch each time,” he said.

The May 29 contract announcement did not mention the ABMS program specifically — and the Air Force did not reply to a request for comment on the rather vague release by press time.

The announcement instead said that: “the contracts are for the maturation, demonstration and proliferation of capability across platforms and domains, leveraging open systems design, modern software and algorithm development in order to enable Joint All Domain Command and Control (JADC2). These contracts provide for the development and operation of systems as a unified force across all domains (air, land, sea, space, cyber and electromagnetic spectrum) in an open architecture family of systems that enables capabilities via multiple integrated platforms.”

But as Breaking D readers know, ABMS is the Air Force’s central effort to support JADC2. A number of vendors selected confirmed that the contracts are part of the ABMS effort.

“The recently announced $950 million indefinite-delivery/indefinite quantity contract award enables Northrop Grumman — as one of 28 awardees selected for the IDIQ contracting vehicle — to continue to work closely with the United States Air Force on all seven Advanced Battle Management System (ABMS) categories: Digital Architecture, Standards and Concepts; Sensor Integration; Data; Secure Processing; Connectivity; Applications; and Effects Integration,” Bryan Lima, MDC2 director for the firm, told Breaking D in a June 2 email. “Through this effort, Northrop Grumman will bring our expertise in each category to support USAF’s ABMS vision and Joint All-Domain Command and Control (JADC2) needs across DOD.”

A Lockheed Martin spokesperson similarly said that the company is delighted “to receive an indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity (ID/IQ) contract notification from the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center in all seven Advanced Battle Management System (ABMS) categories.”

“The initial effort for this contract is a meeting to provide the government with additional information about where Lockheed Martin can contribute to the ABMS architecture and capabilities. This first engagement is scheduled for June-July 2020,” the spokesperson added in a June 2 email.

Air Force photo

Two F-22s and two F-35s fly in close formation.

Northrop Grumman and Lockheed Martin, along with another awardee Honeywell Aerospace, already have been involved in the Air Force’s ongoing “On-Ramp” exercises for ABMS. The three companies in December demonstrated the “gatewayONE” — essentially a radio and antenna system — that allowed Navy and Air Force F-35 Joint Strike Fighters to exchange data with F-22 Raptors with a low probability of detection.

According to a spokesperson for BAE Systems, “the contracts are ID/IQ with individual task orders determining specific scope and schedule. BAE Systems’ response covers all seven categories of the Advanced Battle Management System.”

“This includes cross-domain digital engineering architecture, interoperable sensors, fusion of distributed sensor data, data repositories, enterprise IT, distributed multi-level security cloud, data processing and dissemination, artificial intelligence and machine learning, multi-source and multi-INT data feed apps tailored to solve complex multi-domain Command and Control challenges, and integration of networked weapons,” the BAE spokesperson added. “These capabilities encompass 28 different technologies from across our business working together to serve the Air Force’s requirement set.”

“Boeing is ready to support the U.S. Air Force’s future Joint All Domain Command and Control vision,” said Jeff Shockey, vice president, Global Sales and Marketing, in a June 2 statement provided to Breaking D. “We look forward to partnering with the USAF to develop and deploy technologies that enable battlefield decision making in an increasingly complex threat environment.”

Other vendors included in the award are: Alion Science and Technology; Apogee Research; World Wide Technology;  Borsetta; CACI; Chooch Intelligence Technologies; Collins Aerospace Co.; Dell Technologies; Fregata Systems; General Dynamics; Hellebore Consulting Group; Immersive Wisdom; L3 Harris; Palantir; Parsons Government Services; Persistent Systems Raytheon; Securboration; Silvus Technologies; Simple Sense; Solid State Scientific; Viasat; and Wind Talker Innovations.

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