Raytheon GPS ground programme passes review, delays still possible

By Andrea Shalal

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A $1.6 billion (1 billion pounds) ground control system being developed by Raytheon Co for Global Positioning System (GPS)satellites passed a Pentagon review, but will be monitored to ensure it stays on track, a senior Air Force official said on Friday.

Major General Roger Teague, director of space programs for the Air Force acquisition chief, told reporters Thursday's review by chief arms buyer Frank Kendall went well, but programme officials and the contractor got "tough marching orders" to stick to schedule and cost targets.

Raytheon's programme manager Matt Gilligan said the review provided the company with "clear direction, the best technology, and appropriate resources to ... deliver OCX on a schedule that meets GPS enterprise needs."

Kendall had ordered the review after an Air Force restructuring that increased the cost of the programme by 80 percent to $1.6 billion.

Michael Gilmore, the Pentagon's chief weapons tester, last month warned that delays in delivery of the Operational Ground Control System (OCX) posed risks to the Air Force's ability to operate GPS satellites.

He cited a three-year delay in the operational evaluation of the new ground system to early 2019, and said the Air Force would not receive the first OCX control station until after up to eight GPS III satellites were built and launched.

Lockheed Martin Corp builds the GPS III satellites, but the programme has faced delays due in part to technical challenges with a sensor built by Exelis Inc.

Air Force officials said Lockheed missed expectations on the programme, but they had not decided whether to open the next set of GPS III satellites to competition.

The Air Force's Space and Missile Systems Center said the schedule for the OCX system was in synch with the needs of the satellite constellation, but further delays were possible.

"There is a risk of further slips to OCX which could require a contingency operations capability" that would allow GPS III satellites to enter service before the ground station is delivered, said Tina Greer, spokeswoman for the centre.

She said the Air Force was studying options to keep the programme on schedule, but gave no details.

Raytheon said it will deliver a separate early OCX system in time to support the launch of the first GPS III satellite.

Teague acknowledged past problems with the OCX programme, but said ultimately it would deliver the "most hardened information assurance system ever delivered by the Department of Defense, meeting complex and demanding cyber security requirements."

(Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by David Gregorio and Lisa Shumaker)

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