PORTSMOUTH, Va. – The Marine Corps’ new Ground/Air Task Oriented Radar (G/ATOR) for aviation command and control may face up to a year delay in initial operational test and evaluation if the service cannot find a way to mitigate cuts in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2016.
Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Expeditionary Programs and Logistics Management Tom Dee said last week at the National Defense Industrial Association’s annual Expeditionary Warfare Conference that Congress has typically been supportive of expeditionary programs, adding funding for ship classes such as the LPD-17 amphibious transport dock and the LX(R) dock landing ship replacement, as well as aircraft such as the CH-53 helicopter.
“The downside is, you still have to be able to demonstrate that you can execute your programs, and you still have to have acquisition programs that make sense,” he said.
“And so our G/ATOR radar got hit a little bit – it’s a Marine Corps program, got hit in both [research, development, test and evaluation] and in procurement. That’s because the Hill didn’t really understand what we were trying to do. … You have to be able to explain to these guys, they have to have some buy-in, they have to know what you’re doing and agree with what you’re doing. We didn’t do a wonderful job of explaining this to them. So we took a hit, which really impacts our ability to test on time our Block II system as well as procure the additional radar to support [initial operational test and evaluation].”
Dee told USNI News after his presentation that the worst case scenario he’s looking at is IOT&E slipping a full year.
The cut from Congress originated in the House Armed Services Committee, which cited a delay in IOT&E as the reason for cutting $40 million from the program in FY 2016.
The G/ATOR program explained earlier this year that the G/ATOR system originally used Gallium Arsenide (GaAs) gas for the radar’s semiconductor and planned to switch to the more efficient Gallium Nitride (GaN) when the technology matured. The program office intended to go through IOT&E with the GaAs radar “to prove out the production processes as well as operational suitability,” Marine Corps spokesman Manny Pacheco told USNI News in April. The director of operational test and evaluation (DOT&E) had concerns about testing the GaAs radars but fielding the GaN radars, so the FY 2015 budget request reflected a test plan that included GaN-based radars and the FY 2016 budget request included funding for a third GaN radar to mitigate risk in the new test schedule.
Dee told USNI News at the conference last week that the cut is in the authorization bill, and Congress still hasn’t passed an appropriations bill, so it is still unclear how the program will be able to move forward in FY 2016.
“Worst case is we’re going to end up slipping IOT&E a year, and we’re still trying to work through that, so that’s not a done deal,” he said.
“Part of the cut precludes us from buying test articles early, so we’re going to try to figure out a way to mitigate that somehow. The other part took away the procurement of a Block II radar, which makes it a little more difficult. So we’re working with DOT&E on the TEMP at the moment, the Test and Evaluation Master Plan, to see how we can conduct the test” without the third Block II GaN radar.