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SBIRS awards technical refresh modification

LOS ANGELES AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. (AFNS) -- The Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC) recently completed negotiations on the Lockheed Martin Space Systems’ Space Based Infrared System (SBIRS) Technical Refresh proposal and awarded the contract modification June 9.

The effort will modernize the geosynchronous Earth orbiting spacecraft for the fifth and sixth satellites at no additional cost to the contract that was originally awarded in June 2014. This modernization effort builds upon the cost savings achieved from the innovative block buy contracting approach and a range of production and management efficiencies that resulted in more than $1 billion of savings.

"This is a significant event in the history of the SBIRS system," said Col. Mike Guetlein, the Remote Sensing System Directorate's program director. "It brings the next generation of remote sensing satellites into the 21st century by partnering with industry to leverage their expertise and resources, all while simultaneously delivering more capability to the warfighter. Additionally, the modernized satellite provides a pathway for implementing the next-generation of capabilities being pursued under the Air Force's Space Modernization Initiative. In the end, the next generation capabilities will enable warfighters to see dimmer targets faster, which will allow commanders to keep our troops on the battlefield, as well as our nation and our allies, safe."

Lockheed Martin submitted the proposal on Dec. 8, 2014, with the recommendation to update the current A2100 satellite with a modernized version that is functionally equivalent to the current SBIRS baseline. Benefits of the modernization include increased commonality with other space systems, added satellite resiliency, reduced parts obsolescence, potential for a significant cost savings on future satellite buys, and increased interface flexibility on the satellite to ease future modernization of the onboard sensor suite.

With this modification, SMC continues to showcase its aggressive use of the Department of Defense's "Better Buying Power" and the Air Force's "Bending the Cost Curve Affordability and Productivity" initiatives. The SBIRS effort leverages a number of strong partnership-with-industry initiatives including improved cost management for affordability, the use of a fixed-price-incentive (firm target) contract, removing barriers to commercial technology utilization, improving productivity of independent research and development and emphasizing technology refresh in program planning.

Implementing the SBIRS production effort under a fixed-price-incentive (firm target) arrangement caps the contract cost to the Air Force, while simultaneously allowing the Air Force to realize the technical benefits of modernization.

"The incentive contract arrangement opened up opportunities for the Air Force to restructure the business deal to appropriately share cost risk with Lockheed Martin,” Guetlein said. “It also allowed us to rebalance the incentives between cost, schedule and system performance to ensure alignment with our program goals to field an amazing capability for our warfighters."

The Air Force is taking advantage of a streamlined approach that merges military requirements with Lockheed Martin's best practices to improve commonality across military and commercial programs. Additionally, this effort leverages a significant internal investment by Lockheed Martin in the A2100 satellite product line. SBIRS directly benefits from a majority of the redesign and requalification of hardware and software occurring under the company's internal investment program.

Over time, the SBIRS spacecraft has had redesigns between spacecraft buys to address parts and production process obsolescence. The Technical Refresh project provided a cost-effective opportunity to modernize the design through the use of recently developed electronic subsystems from the Global Positioning System, Advanced Extremely High Frequency and Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites programs. Additionally, it brings commonality to Air Force's space systems which will simplify production efforts, reduce obsolescence and drive down costs while increasing capability and resiliency.

"Implementing the satellite modification at no additional cost to the government reflects a true win-win agreement for the Air Force and Lockheed Martin," Guetlein said. "In addition to Lockheed Martin still having to meet SBIRS contractual requirements, the Air Force reduced its cost liability by decreasing the contract ceiling, obtained data rights to facilitate future program objectives, and ensured the satellites were compatible with multiple launch vehicles, while allowing Lockheed Martin to achieve a merger of its product lines in order to achieve production efficiencies."

The SBIRS program is managed by the Remote Sensing Systems Directorate at the U.S. Air Force's SMC. Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company in Sunnyvale, California, is the SBIRS prime contractor, and Northrop Grumman Electronic Systems in Azusa, California, is the payload integrator. The 460th Space Wing at Buckley Air Force Base in Aurora, Colorado, operates the SBIRS system. The SBIRS program delivers timely, reliable and accurate missile-warning and infrared-surveillance information to the president of the United States, the secretary of Defense, combatant commanders, the intelligence community and other key decision makers. The system enhances global missile launch detection capability, supports the nation's ballistic missile defense system, expands the country's technical intelligence gathering capacity and bolsters situational awareness for warfighters on the battlefield.

"This is an exciting day in SMC's history," said Lt. Gen. Samuel Greaves, the commander of SMC and the Air Force's program executive officer for space. "These negotiations mark a new way of doing business through a stronger partnership with industry. Together, Lockheed Martin and the Air Force are able to provide more capability to the warfighter while reducing program costs and keeping our focus on mission assurance. I am very proud of the teamwork between the Air Force and Lockheed Martin over the last six months."

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