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—Wilson Brissett

The Air Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC) awarded Lockheed Martin a $45 million contract for work on early use military code, or M-Code, capability for current and future GPS satellites.

The contract is another sign that the Air Force is taking steps to remediate the schedule delays and cost overruns produced by Raytheon, the prime contractor for the next generation GPS ground control system (OCX).

Under the new contract, Lockheed will develop GPS ground control software necessary to make M-Code fully functional. M-code is an upgraded transmission capability of the GPS system that will provide to military users a stronger signal and one that is more resistant to jamming and spoofing.

As the OCX prime contractor, Raytheon was originally scheduled to deliver early use M-Code capability by February 2015, according to SMC. A long series of delays and cost overruns, however, led the Air Force to declare a Nunn-McCurdy breach on the entire OCX the program in July 2016.

Last week, the Air Force said that full OCX delivery has been delayed again, until April 2022, and SMC estimates that Raytheon will not be able to deliver early use M-Code capability until July 2021.

According to the new contract, Lockheed—which provides sustainment for the current GPS ground control system—will complete the early use M-Code work by December 2019.

The Air Force has 19 on-orbit satellites that are capable of transmitting M-Code signals, and it expects ground stations to be capable of receiving M-Code transmissions by October 2018, according to SMC. But without the software modifications to the existing GPS system architecture, the anti-jamming and anti-spoofing capabilities of M-Code will not be fully operational.