Raytheon's GPS control system is 'a disaster': U.S. Air Force general

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Air Force’s top space official on Tuesday slammed a new ground control system for GPS satellites being built by Raytheon Co as “a disaster” and said the Pentagon planned “significant” changes with the company to address the issues.

One of Raytheon's Integrated Defense buildings is seen in San Diego, California January 20, 2011. REUTERS/Mike Blake

General John Hyten, commander of Air Force Space Command, spoke after attending a session on the program last Friday led by the Pentagon’s chief arms buyer, Frank Kendall.

Air Force spokeswoman Captain Annmarie Annicelli said the Air Force would develop new cost estimates for the troubled GPS Operational Control System, or OCX, to reflect an additional two-year delay in completing its development.

Air Force officials earlier this year said the program had an 80.5 percent cost increase, to $1.6 billion, and a two-year delay due to increased cyber security requirements and issues with the contractor’s performance.

Hyten, speaking with reporters after an event, said Raytheon had completed an initial system called Block 0 to launch and fly the satellites, but more sophisticated software was needed to take full advantage of all the GPS signals over the longer term.

He said the Air Force initially underestimated the challenge of securing the system from cyber attacks and later had to revise its approach. But he said Raytheon also “did a really bad job” of systems engineering before it began developing software code.

“The OCX program is a disaster, just a disaster, and it’s embarrassing to have to stand in front of people and try to defend it, so I won’t,” Hyten told the event. “When you start down a path and you basically can’t deliver and you keep pushing the system out to the right, and you keep pouring money at it, and the contractor does not deliver, you’re in a tough spot.”

Matt Gilligan, Raytheon’s vice president for navigation and environmental solutions, said the company was focused on continued development of the system.

“We are fully committed to delivering, without compromise, the modernized GPS ground controls envisioned and required by the Air Force,” Gilligan said in a statement to Reuters.

Kendall last week told reporters the department was looking at a range of options for the program, including opening part of the work to a new competition. Neither the Pentagon nor the Air Force had any immediate comment on Tuesday on possible further steps to open part of the work to competition.

The OCX system is to allow the Air Force to operate its newest GPS III, or global positioning system, satellites to help the military target weapons strikes, provide critical timing information and deliver critical services for industry.

Lockheed Martin Corp’s program to build the GPS III satellites also ran into trouble, but is back on track after delays involving a sensor built by Exelis Inc, which is now owned by Harris Corp.

Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Frances Kerry and Dan Grebler