The Air Force will hold a $10 billion contest for as many as 22 new Global Positioning System satellites that’s likely to pit Lockheed Martin Corp. -- which is years behind schedule on the ones it’s already building -- against Boeing Co. and possibly Northrop Grumman Corp.
A request for proposals on the GPS III satellites will be issued “in the very near future,” pending its review by the Pentagon’s Joint Staff, Lieutenant General John Thompson, head of the Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center, told reporters Thursday.
“We wouldn’t be doing a competition if we didn’t think there were viable alternatives to the current Lockheed Martin system,” said Thompson, who added that “there are many vendors that are interested.”
While Thompson wouldn’t name names, Colonel Steven Whitney, the GPS program director, told reporters that Boeing and Northrop each produced a “demo of a working payload” in a preliminary market research effort. Boeing lost the original GPS III contract to Lockheed in 2008.
Thompson said Lockheed would have a “fair competitive advantage” because it’s already on contract to build the first 10 satellites. But the Defense Contract Management Agency and the Air Force have been open in criticizing a cascade of delays under Lockheed.
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