Raytheon Co. will work with Harris Corp. in a competition to develop the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) Next Generation Communication System (NEXCOM) and share in a recently awarded $21 M Rapid Preliminary Development Effort (RPDE) Harris contract. Harris estimates that the follow-on NEXCOM full-scale development program could be worth as much as $400 M by 2012.

NEXCOM will replace the FAA's existing analog communications infrastructure with a system that incorporates the latest technical advances in radio communications. The NEXCOM system will provide capability to accommodate additional sectors and services, reduce logistic costs, replace aging radios, provide data link communications capability, reduce air/ground RF interference and provide operational security. "NEXCOM will introduce the first significant operational change in the way FAA air traffic controllers communicate with pilots since VHF radio communication was established in the 1940s," said Bob Eckel, vice president, Air Traffic Management Systems. "Raytheon will leverage its extensive military communication systems integration experience and the FAA's state-of-the-art Standard Terminal Automation Replacement System (STARS) to develop subsystems for NEXCOM."

NEXCOM will use Time Division Multiple Access (TDMA) techniques to multiplex up to four channels of voice and data over each of the existing frequencies allocated to communications in the VHF band. In the RPDE phase, the Harris team will develop critical components of the ground infrastructure equipment used to support the integration of the NEXCOM multi-mode digital radios into the FAA's air/ground telecommunication network. In the follow-on production phase, the FAA will deploy the NEXCOM infrastructure to replace the existing analog system infrastructure. The NEXCOM production phase is currently scheduled to begin in 2005. Harris Corp., with headquarters in Melbourne, FL, will provide overall leadership of the Harris-Raytheon NEXCOM team, developing the system architecture, software design and system security.