WASHINGTON -- Raytheon has filed a protest with the Government Accountability Office over the Army's contract award to Leidos to deliver the next iteration of its Advanced Field Artillery Tactical Data System (AFATDS).

Raytheon has long been the prime contractor for AFATDS, but the Army broke with tradition, held a new competition for the contract, and decided to choose Leidos to deliver the next iteration on Dec. 29.

Raytheon filed its protest on January 11 and the GAO, by law, has until April 21 to issue a decision.

AFATDS is a joint and coalition command and control fires support system. The deal with Leidos sets up a three-year contract with a two-year option worth $98 million, according to an Army statement at the time of the award.

Both General Dynamics Mission Systems and Northrop Grumman also submitted offerings to the AFATDS competition. The deadline to file a bid protest is Friday, but no record of protests besides Raytheon’s had appeared on the GAO’s website.

Raytheon has much to lose as sources say AFATDS was a lucrative endeavor for the company, which successfully fielded 13 versions since its inception in the early 1980s.

The company first entered into an agreement with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency in 1981 to develop AFATDS and received its first contract in 1984. AFATDS was approved for fielding in 1996.

AFATDS has supported operations in Desert Storm and Iraqi Freedom. It is 100 percent fielded with more than 4,000 systems. The newest version is expected to be fielded in fiscal year 2020.

Until GAO renders a decision on the protest, Leidos will be unable to proceed with the contract.

Jen Judson is an award-winning journalist covering land warfare for Defense News. She has also worked for Politico and Inside Defense. She holds a Master of Science in journalism from Boston University and a Bachelor of Arts from Kenyon College.

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