G/ATOR FACES BUDGET OBSTACLES AS IT MOVES TOWARD FULL PRODUCTION
BY DANIEL P. TAYLOR, SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
The yearly budget battle can be a frustrating one for program managers at the
Pentagon, and no one knows that better
than the leadership in charge of the Ground/
Air Task-Oriented Radar (G/ATOR) system for the Marine Corps. Everything was
on track for full production and fielding of
the expeditionary radar system, but House
appropriators threaten to throw a monkey
wrench into that schedule.
In September, manufacturer Northrop Grumman was
awarded a $375 million contract covering four years and
nine low-rate initial production (LRIP) G/ATOR systems.
But the appropriators’ mark could affect future orders
and, therefore, the schedule of the program.
The Marine Corps requested $124 million for three
G/ATOR systems in its fiscal 2017 budget request. The
House Appropriations Committee cut $9.8 million in
its markup for “excess engineering change orders” and
“anticipated contract savings.”
A year earlier, the House Armed Services Committee
recommended cutting $40 million from the service’s fis-
cal 2016 request for $130 million to buy three radars. The
enacted budget total ended up being about $127 million.
This comes at a particularly bad time for G/ATOR.
The program was expecting the delivery of the first
system in February, with one delivery every other
month after that and fielding anticipated in 2018, John
Karlovich, G/ATOR program manager, told Seapower.
G/ATOR, or AN/TPS-80, is the Marine Corps’
next-generation air surveillance, air defense and air
traffic control radar. The system uses a single hardware
solution that comes in two blocks: Block 1 will cover air
defense and the air surveillance mission, and Block 2
will deal with the target acquisition system.
System development and demonstration (SDD)
for G/ATOR Block 1 is complete, and the program has
passed critical design review for Block 2.
The program office made the decision to switch from
gallium arsenide to the more efficient gallium nitride to
power the radar’s transmit/receive modules in the middle of the program in order to save about $2 million per
unit. Gallium nitride also uses less power and produces
less heat than gallium arsenide with the same power
output, according to the Marine Corps. The first LRIP
systems have gallium arsenide, and then the program
will switch over to gallium nitride-based systems.
“Gallium arsenide was the state-of-the-art semi-
conductor, and gallium nitride is the up and coming,”
Karlovich said. “So we are transitioning early on in this
program and ensuring that as we deliver these new
radars to the Marine Corps, they have the latest and
The radars should hit initial operational capability
in 2018. Full-rate production is set for 2019. This year
will “pretty much be a test year,” he said.
The current continuing resolution has made it challenging to execute the program fully, and the House
appropriators’ mark is worrying, because it impacts the
program’s ability to exercise an option for three more
systems. After the six original gallium arsenide LRIP
systems, the program has three gallium nitride systems
under contract, an option for three more in 2017 and
another three in 2018, for 15 total systems.
The decision to switch over to gallium nitride
caused an early obstacle for the program, delaying the
Milestone C decision in 2014 because the Department
of Test and Evaluation did not consider the arsenide
systems representative of the population of G/ATORs
the Marine Corps intended to field.
“We had to do it on gallium nitride systems, even
though they’re just a form, fit and function replacement,” Karlovich said.
Since then, however, the program has been on
track and only funding concerns have stood in the way
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