Project Mercury ADS-B Initiative Moves Quietly Ahead

 - September 21, 2006, 6:01 AM

First revealed publicly by AIN (December, page 20), but still not reported in other aviation media, the aerospace industry’s hitherto secret Project Mercury has, as forecast, now been acknowledged as a potential supplier of a turnkey nationwide ADS-B network for the FAA.

A recent document authored jointly by industry and agency officials states that “the FAA is considering performance-based acquisition for ADS-B. Under this strategy a vendor will develop, manufacture, install, operate and maintain the ADS-B infrastructure. The FAA will create the performance work statements (e.g. coverage, availability and interface to equipage and automation) necessary to ensure the system provides the level of support for broadcast services and surveillance services.”

While not identified by name, the Project Mercury consortium, which includes Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Raytheon, Embry-Riddle and other so far unidentified entities, would bring an unequalled level of ATC technology and expertise to the task, supported by strong financial resources. Put another way, it appears unlikely that another U.S. aerospace consortium could seriously rival Project Mercury’s overall capabilities. In fact, the project regards ADS-B as the first significant realization of the aerospace industry’s new “co-opetition” philosophy, under which former competitors ally themselves as a consortium.

As AIN reported in December, the Mercury team was expected to launch its initiative by offering to provide the FAA with a turnkey nationwide ADS-B network, packaged with a subsequent follow-on controller-pilot datalink communications system across the continental U.S. coupled with a digital communications environment, all of which have been on the agency’s wish list for years, but financially out of reach.