COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Of the three companies interested in producing GPS III follow-on satellites, at least one of them — in this case, Boeing — will not be competing for the opportunity.
Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Boeing had all been awarded phase 1 contracts in 2016 to perform readiness feasibility studies for follow-on next-generation GPS III satellites from the 11th satellite onward.
At this point, however, it is unclear whether incumbent Lockheed Martin — the only competitor that has confirmed it has put forward a proposal — is a shoo-in for the contract by default.
“Boeing did not submit a proposal in response to the RFP [request for proposals] as the RFP emphasized mature production to current GPS requirements and did not value lower cost, payload performance or flexibility,” a Boeing spokesperson told Defense News.
Northrop Grumman declined to comment on whether it had submitted a bid on the program.
The Air Force declined to comment on how many bids it had received on April 16, the final day for companies to submit proposals. The service intends to procure up to 22 new satellites during the second phase of GPS III follow-on, with the first vehicle planned for a 2026 delivery.
Lockheed is under contract for the first 10 GPS III satellites, and already has six satellites in some state in production with one of those ready for an expected launch this year. If the Air Force is prioritizing speedy production, as Boeing asserts, it’s possible that the competitors declined to bid, thinking Lockheed’s win was a sure outcome.
In a news release confirming its proposal submission, Lockheed positioned itself as the experienced, low-risk option. It also hyped its manufacturing agility, saying that the company had already received more than 90 percent of the parts needed to build all 10 initial satellites.
“When we developed our design for the first 10 GPS III, we used a flexible, modular architecture that would allow for the insertion of modern technologies and new Air Force requirements in a low-risk manner,” stated Johnathon Caldwell, Lockheed’s program manager.
“In addition, our GPS IIIF solution is based off a design already proven compatible with both the Air Force’s next generation Operational Control System (OCX) and the existing GPS constellation.”
Valerie Insinna is Defense News' air warfare reporter. She previously worked the Navy/congressional beats for Defense Daily, which followed almost three years as a staff writer for National Defense Magazine. Prior to that, she worked as an editorial assistant for the Tokyo Shimbun’s Washington bureau.