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Acquiring affordable UAVs.

The Tier II Plus High Altitude Endurance (HAE) Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) Program is a Defense Airborne Reconnaissance Office initiative to achieve significant military reconnaissance capability for a fixed, predetermined unit flyaway price (UFP) of $10 million (measured in FY94 dollars). We have two primary objectives. The first is to demonstrate an affordable reconnaissance capability for the Joint Force Commander (JFC) that will provide the JFC with timely, high-quality imagery intelligence products in exploitable form.

The second is to streamline the UAV development process. The HAE UAV business strategy represents a radical departure from the standard approach to acquisition. Using the Advanced Research Projects Agency's (ARPA) recently granted "other agreement authority," the HAE UAV Program will maximize the use of commercial practices and standards, off-the-shelf components and integrated government and contractor development teams, as well as having a firm design-to-cost requirement.


The HAE UAV system will provide rapid-response, worldwide reconnaissance coverage that is under the direct control and tasking of the JFC. The system will be capable of sustained (24-hour), high-altitude (65,000 ft) surveillance and reconnaissance at up to a 3,000-nmi radius of action. The system will provide near-real-time, all-weather, day/night high-resolution imagery to operational commanders. The radar and EO/IR data will be transmitted to current and planned image exploitation and dissemination equipment which will enhance battlefield situational awareness and provide JFCs with accurate targeting information and the timely data on enemy terrain, infrastructure, force concentrations, enemy offensive and defensive positions, deception postures and combat assessment necessary for planning theater campaigns and major operations. At a UFP of $10 million, which includes air vehicle and sensors, this represents an economical, unmanned reconnaissance asset which can stand the risk of being sent into enemy airspace.

The primary reason for the high altitude requirement is survivability, but this also allows flight above most manned aircraft and weather and gives better sensor coverage range. The combination of long endurance, long range and reliable operation allows a fleet of four vehicles to provide continuous coverage of a crisis area from a reasonable number of worldwide bases.

The UAV will be an automatic reconnaissance platform whose initial payload will be high-resolution radar and electro-optical (visible and infrared) imagery sensors. Sensor data will be processed and communicated in real time via wideband satellite communications links to a ground station. The ground station will plan the flight path and control the vehicle and sensors, interface with theater military operational forces for tasking instructions, format the imagery and disseminate it in real time to imagery analysis and exploitation systems. Through the ground station, the theater commander will have direct control of the system and the first look at the resulting product.

The HAE UAV system will comprise an airborne element (air vehicles with sensors, avionics, line-of-sight and satellite communications data links and data storage), a ground system (consisting of a launch and recovery element and a mission control element) and a support element. The launch and recovery element will prepare, launch and recover the air vehicles, while the mission control element will provide mission planning, dynamically retask the air vehicles and process, store and/or disseminate data as tasked. Processing and exploitation will be accomplished by existing and planned DOD systems/installations such as the Joint Service Imagery Processing System, Contingency Airborne Reconnaissance System, Modern Intelligence Exploitation System, Joint Intelligence Centers and Naval Processing Intelligence Centers.


The Tier II Plus program is truly different in that we have only one requirement - a $10 million UFP. The focus of the entire program is to get as much reconnaissance capability as we can for $10 million.

In doing this, we have taken a phased approach to the entire acquisition. In Phase I of the program, five contractors will perform studies and analysis to refine designs which we will take into engineering development and flight test in Phase II. At the completion of Phase II, a single contractor will build a number of prototype demonstration vehicles and two ground systems and conduct a two-year operational demonstration. After that a final production decision will be made.

We are attempting to maintain competition for as long as possible. The contractors from Phase I will be paired down to two contractors for Phase II. This gives us a look at the system in operation in a competitive environment well before a production decision is made.

Broad contracting authority has been granted to ARPA by the Congress to modify our business practices with what is termed "other transactions authority" under Section 845 of the 1993 Defense Authorization Act. This authority permits us to deviate from the Federal Acquisition Regulations, create new and innovative ways of doing business and make our programs more attractive to commercial suppliers. Consequently, we have structured an agreement with industry instead of a classical DOD contract.

This authority has also allowed us to place a strong emphasis on the use of Commercial off-the-shelf technology (COTS) and equipment. We are trying to encourage industry at every turn in the program to use commercial practices and bring commercial equipment into to DOD sector. We will look at this commercial equipment and the total system for several years of demonstration in the environment in which it will have to operate. This concept is what we term "operate before buy."

We also will use new simulation and modeling techniques which will guide the program. These new simulations are developed for the ARPA War Breaker program and will permit us and our users to better understand the systems that we have in development.

We put all of our objectives in a new form of request for proposals, which we simply entitled a solicitation. This solicitation was very small, as was the proposal that accompanied it. We focused the solicitation on the products of the program - and so did the contractors with their resultant proposals. We also concentrated our source selection on the agreement with which we will run the program.

We eliminated the classical CDRL and substituted in its place a tracking system which covers cost, schedule, and performance and interactively delivers data to the government and the contractor. Our objective here is to use the same data in the same format that our contractors are using. We are trying to develop insight into the efforts of our contractor associates rather than performing a classical oversight role.

We have also inserted into the agreement an irrevocable offer to buy the first 10 production air vehicles at the $10 million UFP. This offer will take effect at the end of Phase II.

The key implementing feature of our acquisition strategy is the Integrated Management Framework which we have employed throughout all of our documentation. This framework allows us to link our technical objectives to our cost performance and organize the program around its products.

The System Capabilities Document (SCD) shows all of our contractors what the objectives of the government are. These are broken out and stratified across the products of the program such as the air vehicle, ground segment, etc. These are performance/functional objectives. We are not telling our contractors how to do things; we're telling them how we want our products to perform. Each one of the offerors responded to us with a preliminary system specification which showed how their system would meet our program goals. Throughout the program we will refine this preliminary system specification until we select a single contractor and adopt its system specification as our own.

We also provided the contractors with our view of how the program should be organized. We did this through a work outline and asked them to put a single numbering system with it. This single numbering system (which traditionally is called a Work Breakdown Structure) simplifies tracking and lets us see the relationship of every element of the program. We will also organize around the products highlighted in the work outline. The Task Description Document (TDD), which is very similar to a statement of work, permits, for the first time, the contractors to tell the government what they are going to do to meet the goals contained within the SCD. This is a greatly simplified, level-two document which alleviates many of the burdens classically found in a formal statement of work.

The cornerstone of our entire program is our Integrated Master Plan (IMP). This single integrated plan uses the numbering system from the work outline and is focused on the goals of the SCD. It is prepared by the contractors and lays out the process that will be used to produce the products on the program.

Consequently, the IMP is divided into product and process sections. The product plan is a simple event-based plan designed to show us the critical path or core program. This product plan lays out the events, all of the tasks that must be done to reach each event and the criteria by which we will judge successful accomplishment of each task. The process plan represents a fundamental and binding agreement on what processes will be used and how they will be applied to the program. The IMP is an attachment to the agreement and as such forms an integral part of it.

The last feature of our Integrated Management Framework has permitted us to eliminate the classical CDRL in our tracking system. Using contractor formats, we have called for a single Integrated Master Schedule which is tied directly to the IMP. The Integrated Master Schedule assigns time to the tasks and criteria of the IMP and provides lower level program details. Tied to the schedule is a very robust set of Technical Performance Measures which will show us how we stand in relation to the accomplishment of our performance goals. Also tied to the schedule will be an earned value system which will be developed during Phase I and will tie the cost to our schedule and our performance objectives.


We are truly attempting to run this program in an entirely different paradigm. We want the Tier II Plus to be like a lean, commercial enterprise. This applies to our process and our people. The government program office will be deliberately kept to a small and very experienced group of people who are capable of using commercial products and translating them into the needs of other government agencies. We are truly encouraging innovation in all of our processes. There is virtually nothing "standard" about the Tier II Plus program.

We have focused our program on our products and integrated our organization and documentation - in fact, everything we do - around these products. This has allowed us, through the Integrated Management Framework, to achieve a level of integration that is truly unprecedented. We can trace each of our program goals directly to the people that work on the program. This fosters empowerment and a great deal of organizational loyalty and discipline.

When you have a program that is as highly integrated as ours you can give industry more freedom. Consequently, the level of detail at which we will operate will be much higher than in classical programs. For example, we have only provided two mil-specs in the entire solicitation, and these were done for reference only. We have tailored all of our management systems and data requirements to the Integrated Product Development philosophy and the lean small office that we wanted to maintain.

The program has already accomplished much. We have issued what we believe is the smallest RFP to come out of a DOD agency since the close of World War II. The solicitation is 67 pages long and includes our model agreement. In response to that, we received 14 excellent proposals.(*) Discussions of our draft solicitation indicated that our offerors understood what we wanted and were encouraged by our approach. The proposals were limited to 200 pages and the government evaluators universally responded that the IMP and the Integrated Management Framework provided a better integrated and more complete picture of the entire program than they have been able to achieve in previous source selections.

In summary, we believe that through our "other transaction authority" and our Integrated Product Development implementation that we are pursuing a new acquisition management paradigm which holds great potential for the DOD. We are truly freeing industry to provide us with good ideas in a commercial environment. Our incremental acquisition strategy allows us to carefully examine our requirements and to cancel the program if it either begins to cost too much or shows marginal utility to our users. Our "operate before buy" philosophy allows us to truly examine this system before we make any final production decisions.

* Editor's Note: The 14 proposals have been whittled to five. The present contractor teams include Loral Systems Co., teamed with Frontier Systems Inc., Loral Defense Systems and Loral Fairchild Systems; Northrop Grumman Aerospace Corp., teamed with Westinghouse Electric Corp., AeroVironment Inc., Scaled Composites Inc. and PAR Government Systems Corp.; Orbital Sciences Corp., teamed with Westinghouse's Electronic Systems Group, Scaled Composites and Fairchild Space and Defense Corp.; Raytheon Co. Missile Systems Division, teamed with Lockheed Advanced Development Co., Task Research Ltd. and AlliedSignal Aerospace Guidance and Control Systems Group; and Teledyne-Ryan Aeronautical, teamed with E-Systems Melpar Division, E-Systems Garland Division, GDE Systems and Adroit Systems. Subject to negotiation, each team will receive $4 million fixed-price agreements for a six-month initial design effort.

John Entzminger is director of the ARPA UAV Joint Program Office and chief, advanced technology.
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Title Annotation:unmanned aerial vehicles
Author:Entzminger, John
Publication:Journal of Electronic Defense
Article Type:Cover Story
Date:Jan 1, 1995
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