Friday, September 15, 2023

Navy releases solicitation to replace E-6B Mercury planes

The U.S. Navy is pursuing a technically viable and cost-effective replacement for their aging fleet of E-6B Nuclear Command, Control and Communications aircraft, according to contract documents released Thursday.

The new replacement will take over the duties of the current E-6B to allow the aging fleet to perform other critical missions before it is retired.

The E-6B Mercury aircraft, known as TACAMO (which stands for Take Charge And Move Out), is a survivable airborne communication system plane that can take control of the Navy’s ballistic missile submarine force and overall strategic forces if needed.

The first E-6 was delivered in August 1989 with the final airplane coming in May 1992.

The E-6B version also has a secondary role as a “Looking Glass” Airborne National Command Post that has been used as a communications relay station over the front lines of combat.

The Naval Air Systems Command on behalf of the Airborne Strategic Command, Control, and Communications Program Office, intends to release a competitive solicitation for the procurement of the TACAMO Recapitalization (E-XX) Program.

“The competitive solicitation is for the Engineering and Manufacturing Development (EMD) contract, including options for System Demonstration Test Articles (SDTA), and options for the first two production lots,” the Navy said in a solicitation document released Thursday.

The solicitation will be available for “courier pick up only” on Sept. 21 to those offerors that meet the requirements contained herein for the E-XX effort, the Navy said.

“The solicitation is for a prime contractor to integrate mature, government-defined, TACAMO mission systems, including the Collins Aerospace Very Low Frequency (VLF) subsystem, into a government-furnished C-130J-30 aircraft,” the Navy said.

The solicitation requests proposals for both the EMD and production phases. During EMD, the contractor will design, develop, integrate, deliver, and test up to six E-XX aircraft (three Engineering Development Models and up to three SDTAs).

VLF and C130J-30 Original Equipment Manufacturers Rockwell Collins Inc. and Lockheed Martin will be directed subcontractors under this effort, the Navy said.

The Navy plans to award the contract in October 2024.

In the meantime, the Navy is updating and modifying its current fleet of E-6Bs.

First Modified E-6B Delivered

In June, Northrop Grumman Corp. (NGC) announced that the first modified E-6B Mercury was delivered back to the Navy.

“Five kits were successfully integrated onto the E-6B platform, implementing efficiencies and improving aircraft command, control, and communications functions,” NGC said in a press release.

Northrop Grumman was awarded the Integrated Modification and Maintenance Contract for the Navy’s E-6B Mercury platform, a derivative of the commercial Boeing 707 aircraft, in February 2022. The contract has a value of $111 million. The work was performed at Northrop Grumman’s Aircraft Maintenance and Fabrication Center in Lake Charles.

The E-6B operates across a wide frequency spectrum to transmit and receive secure and non-secure voice and data information. The aircraft provides survivable, reliable, and endurable airborne command, control and communications in support of the President, Secretary of Defense and United States Strategic Command.

The second aircraft has already arrived in Lake Charles, and capability upgrades, integrations and tests on the aircraft are underway.

Over the next several years, NGC will continue to perform these modifications to the current Navy E-6B aircraft.

Related story: Navy schedules Classified Industry Day meeting to discuss TACAMO aircraft replacement

No comments: