The US Air Force (USAF) is likely to award the long-awaited 3D expeditionary long-range radar (3DELRR) contract as early as next week.

Unnamed sources were quoted by DefenseNews as saying that a Defense Acquisition Board meeting was scheduled to be held on 27 August.

The Defense Acquisition Board represents one of the final steps before a contract award, and indicates that the award may be announced next week, the sources added.

The contract is most likely to be awarded before 15 September, the start of the Air Force Association’s Air & Space Conference and Technology Exposition, held outside of Washington, US.

Initially covering development of 35 new radar systems, the 3DELRR programme aims to replace the USAF’s existing AN/TPS-75 passive electronically scanned array air search radar system.

The 3DELRR radar would serve as the principal long-range, ground-based sensor for detection, identification, tracking and reporting of aircraft and missiles at extended ranges in support of combatant commanders.

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Potential contenders include Lockheed Martin, Raytheon and Northrop Grumman.

"The contract is most likely to be awarded before the start of the Air & Space Conference and Technology Exposition."

All three companies have already completed capability demonstrations of their respective 3DELRR full-scale prototypes in 2013 as part of a pre-engineering manufacturing development (pre-EMD) phase contract awarded by USAF in August 2012.

The winning contractor would also build additional 3DELRR radars, as the air force noted in its 2015 budget documents. The radar is also being considered by the US Marine Corps for replacement of its AN/TPS-59 radar, according to the news agency.

The USAF expects to complete a critical design review of the programme by the end of the first quarter of 2015, followed by low-rate initial production in early 2018 and achieve initial operational capability by 2020.

Image: A three dimensional expeditionary long-range radar prototype built by Lockheed Martin. Photo: © 2014 Lockheed Martin Corporation.

Defence Technology