11 Apr 05. A DPA spokesman said on Tuesday that a decision on Project Falcon would be postponed until November 2005, disappointing news for BAE Systems and Selenia Communications on a programme whose value has been put at over £400million. However, sources close to BATTLESPACE suggest that it is the main Gate submission for FALCON that has been delayed and is currently forecast for the end of 2005. A down-select to one bidder is slated for June of this year.
There has been speculation on just when, or indeed if a decision would be made as some believe Falcon will ultimately cancelled the capability delivered by other means. Industry had been privately confident of a decision in November 2004, but this then slipped to April 2005 but with no apparent movement it was subsequently being hoped for a decision prior to the General Election on May 5th.
Both teams have been working closely with the DPA to enable a downselect decision in advance of Main Gate. This will enable the DPA to work with the selected contractor prior to Main Gate to ensure that capability can be delivered as early as possible within the constraints of a revised budget profile – This procurement strategy also makes best use of the considerable investment already made in the programme by the MoD and Industry over several years.
One source anticipated a delay of as much as two to three years, citing MoD concerns about a clearer path toward IPv6 as one of several reason contributing to the delay. The consensus of opinion is that the overriding issue in the delay is cost cutting, to resolve the MoD procurement-funding deficit. Other sources suggest that funding for the Falcon capability that would initially provide the Wide Area System (WAS) and Local Area System (LAS) for the UK’s contribution to the ARRC in December 2006, will not be ‘banked’ and will instead go some way to alleviating this current cash crisis. Falcon is not the only programme rumoured to have money shaved from this budget with the suggestion that Watchkeeper will have £120m trimmed from its wings.
For their part, the MoD have worked closely with Industry to ensure there is no technology issue resulting from a delay. This has been through the development of system solutions that can migrate to take advantage of maturing technologies – The maturity of IPv6 has not been a contributor to the delay, which has been purely budget driven. The Central Customer is clear that the capability to be provided by FALCON is needed. It is also believed that the DPA’s strategy of working with the bidders will minimise the programme risks and ensure any delay to the In Service date (due to changes in the budget profile) is also minimised
The delay poses some issues for industry, in twelve months time, the Technology Readiness Levels of components and solutions could shift significantly, but to make those assessments industry would have to retain cohesion in their bid teams, not the easiest thing to achieve as the DPA has given no indication that additional funding would be provided. In the unlikely both teams have unspent money from the assessment phase available industry will be left footing the bill in keeping the bids technologically current. The Selenia Communications team members comprise Lockheed Martin, Westland, Anteon, Harrington Generators, and TMS. The competing BAE systems team includes Thales, Ultra Communications and Mastsystem.
The DPA also indicated that there would be no funding released to provide improvements in communications to existing infrastructure leaving Ptarmigan and RTTS/DLAN (in 2010/11) to soldier on another year in their current state.
One option said by industry as being considered by the MoD is using Cormorant to fill some of the void that now exists as an interim measure until the Falcon capability comes on line. The £114m EADS née Cogent Cormorant solution however, has had its own problems, its ISD was due in 2002 but had to be delayed until June 2005, alt