Middle Tier of Acquisition (MTA)

AAF  >  MTA MTA Scenarios  >  Scenario 2: CREWED ISR PLATFORM


(based loosely on Project Liberty aircraft)

Rapid Fielding: How might we leverage COTS/GOTS hardware to rapidly field a new system?

Costs & Funding
System Production & Fielding
Test and Demonstration
System Operation & Sustainment

Reference Source: Guidance from OUSD(A&S)


Ongoing combat operations overseas have stretched existing airborne ISR capabilities to the limit. As a new mission area opens, the need for additional airborne ISR systems continues to increase. Based on this stated operational need, a Rapid Fielding MTA program launches to begin production of combat-ready systems within six months and complete fielding within five years, in accordance with DODI 5000.80.



Because this is an MTA effort, the requirements are not subject to the full JCIDS process. Instead, the operational command develops a simplified requirements document that is narrowly focused on describing a limited number of systems to address the current operational shortfall. This document succinctly highlights the current shortfall, opportunity for augmenting the current fleet and reducing operational risks and costs. They share early drafts of this requirements document with key stakeholders from the operational community in advance, to secure their inputs and support in a timely manner.

The requirements are strictly limited to reflect existing technologies and to support current needs, rather than developing a future-oriented breakthrough. The acquisition strategy prioritizes a modular system architecture for this crewed airborne platform that relies on proven, mature technology. The airframe will be a commercially available jet, minimally modified to carry a combination of COTS and GOTS electronics, sensors, communications equipment, and processing equipment.

Key Documentation Considerations

They consider the implications of continuing production beyond the initial MTA Rapid Fielding pathway timelines and initiate a Capability Production Document early in the MTA program to ensure that it was in-place when the MTA program later transitions to the MCA pathway and becomes a Program of Record.


The contracting strategy consists of a competitive award to the vendor with the most mature technology and integration capability which is key to this acquisition.  The FAR Part 12 contract contains pre-priced production options using economic order quantities beyond the initial scope of the MTA program. The contract also negotiates intellectual property rights to ensure the Government has access to key parts of the system design that will require long-term maintenance.



They secure funding through the POM process where procurement funding and new start authority needed to be secured.  Congress authorizes the start of the program and an order of 10 units to begin low-rate initial production.

Key Documentation Considerations

Given the likely costs of procuring aircraft, they recognize that they would need to begin coordination with CAPE and adjudicate which agency would produce the Independent Cost Estimate (ICE).  Given the COTS/GOTS nature of the procurement, they convince CAPE to allow the Service to manage the initial cost estimate and future updates.  They factor in the potential for production beyond the scope of the MTA Rapid Fielding program to inform long-term budgeting and program planning.


Production is scheduled to begin within 6 months of program initiation. The final airframe is scheduled for delivery three years after program initiation, well ahead of the five-year statutory limitation for this pathway.



This program aims to quickly develop a low-cost system that can be put into operations immediately, with a short design effort upfront. The design effort is strictly limited to integrating mature technologies, rather than developing new components. This effort involves some minor customization of the hardware to fit into the racks and to simplify cable management, but 90% of the effort is simply integration testing.  Architects are able to test the design before assembly, using CAD software. The program office also uses a modular open system architecture (MOSA) approach, which allows for the system to proceed to production quickly. This architecture also provides for plug-and-play replacement of equipment, updates, and maintenance, simplifying the sustainment requirements.



The program office makes maximum use of existing development and operational test results and certifications for each individual component, minimizing the amount of time and expense necessary for testing this new system. Additional integration testing using CAD software is limited to confirming the components interact correctly with each other.



The program office, recognizing that these aircraft would likely provide an enduring capability, begins long-term sustainment planning early in the program to ensure that all product support elements are adequately addressed when the aircraft are fielded and also to provide logistics capacity to support continued procurement.



The program office begins planning early to transition the MTA Rapid Fielding program into the MCA pathway to serve as the enduring program of record and the SW Acquisition pathway to provide continuous software upgrades to the fielded hardware configuration.

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