WASHINGTON — Raytheon has been awarded the right to produce the U.S. Air Force's next-generation, ground-based radar contract for the second time.

The Air Force announced Thursday that the Massachusetts-based company has been awarded a $52.6 fixed-price-incentive-firm engineering and manufacturing development EMD contract for the service's Three-Dimensional Expeditionary Long-Range Radar (3DELRR) system.

The contract ends a two-and-a-half-year fight between Raytheon and its competitors, Northrop Grumman and Lockheed Martin.

Raytheon was first selected as the provider for 3DELRR in October 2014, but Northrop and Lockheed quickly lodged protests over the decision with the Government Accountability Office (GAO). Days before the protest window was to run out, the Air Force voluntarily announced it would re-evaluate the contract award, a move seen as a sign that the service expected the GAO to side with one of the protesting companies.

As a result, Raytheon lodged a suit against the service, one which was ultimately rejected by a U.S. court. The Air Force then relaunched the competition. The 3DELRR program will replace the service's aging TPS-75 expeditionary radar system, which officials have warned will not be able to track future capabilities being designed by potential foes. The new systems are scheduled to be active in 2028.

At stake with the contract was not just the right to produce systems for the Air Force, but a potential stranglehold on the broader ground-based radar market. The U.S. Marine Corps has also explored the option of using the 3DELRR winner to replace its AN/TPS-59 system.

A Raytheon spokesman said the company was "pleased" and "eager to move forward" on the contract.

Although Lockheed did not win, they appear to have a fan of their offering — in 2014, a Chinese radar bearing heavy similarity to the Lockheed design appeared at a trade show. The company was famously hacked in 2009, with consensus that the Chinese government was behind it.

Aaron Mehta was deputy editor and senior Pentagon correspondent for Defense News, covering policy, strategy and acquisition at the highest levels of the Defense Department and its international partners.

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