LCDR Mark Converse, U.S. Navy

On 19 November, the Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development, and Acquisition, Honorable John W. Douglass, approved the ATFLIR program's Milestone II to enter engineering and manufacturing development (EMD). The decision came following a brief given by the ATFLIR Government / Industry team and months of preparation. A highlight of the brief was the innovative commercial business practice utilized by the team to solve previous funding shortfalls in FY98/99.

A critical element of the preparations involved Boeing's selection of a supplier to build the ATFLIR. In spring 1997, they solicited industry participation in the design and manufacture of the system. Boeing made an initial downselect to two finalists, Hughes Aircraft Company and Lockheed Martin, from five competitors. After a thorough examination of the contractors' final proposals, which included an assessment of both prototypes in the lab, Boeing selected Hughes Aircraft Company (Sensors and Communications Systems) to develop and manufacture the ATFLIR. The program is expected to produce 574 shipsets, with 10 engineering development models to be delivered to Boeing by mid-1999 for qualification and flight testing. The ATFLIR EMD phase will be managed by a joint Government and Industry Integrated Product Team, composed of members of the U.S. Navy and The Boeing Company (the same team that managed the pre-Milestone II preparations).

With Milestone II approval in hand, the team will go on to complete EMD contract negotiations in time for a February 1998 award. The EMD schedule is very aggressive, but with the Milestone II decision complete, the team can press ahead with the task of delivering the ATFLIR for the first F/A-18E/F deployment.

F/A-18's equipped with ATFLIRs, the world's first Generation III Targeting FLIR, will provide naval aviation with a vast improvement in detection and targeting capability that it requires to do its job in the next century.