The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) denied a protest by Lockheed Martin over the U.S. Navy’s selection of the Northrop Grumman RQ-4N Global Hawk UAV for the Broad Area Maritime Surveillance (BAMS) contract. The ruling allows Northrop to proceed with the $2.3 billion system design and development phase of BAMS. The ruling by the GAO also revealed significant performance problems by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems (GA-ASI) on multiple contracts to supply Predator, Reaper and I-Gnat UAVs and their associated ground control stations to the U.S. Air Force and U.S. Army.
Lockheed Martin’s proposal for BAMS was based on the Mariner UAV, a development of the Reaper to be produced by GA-ASI. The Navy found that Lockheed’s proposal promised to be significantly less expensive to develop, produce and operate–$15.8 billion versus $20.9 billion. But the Northrop proposal had a strong technical advantage (the most important evaluation factor) and a significant advantage under the past performance evaluation (the second most important factor). The Navy said that three jet-powered Global Hawks could provide an effective time on station (ETOS) of 96.2 percent versus 84.6 percent for four turboprop-powered Mariners. The Global Hawk also provided superior margins for space, weight and power.
Regarding past performance, the Navy said that customer feedback on GA-ASI’s contracts was “remarkably consistent, identifying difficulties in managing workload, problems with executing systems engineering and systems integration tasks and problems with properly staffing a project,” according to the GAO. Lockheed protested the Navy’s ETOS calculations and past performance findings. In particular, Lockheed claimed that GA-ASI had made systemic improvements to management and execution of contracts. But the GAO confirmed the Navy’s findings.
Australia is now likely to follow the U.S Navy and buy the RQ-4N. The BAMS award will also allow Northrop Grumman to achieve a more economic rate of production for the Global Hawk family, thus benefiting not only the U.S. Air Force, but also the German Air Force, which is buying the Euro-Hawk version for SIGINT, and NATO, which is potentially buying a version equipped with the new MP-RTIP new radar for ground surveillance.