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Agreement green-lights ESC efforts in Kyrgyzstan

By Chuck Paone , 66th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

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Sept. 30, 2010 — 100930_esc

Air Force Electronic Systems Center Commander Lt. Gen. Ted Bowlds and Kyrgyzstani Transportation Minister Erkin Isakov sign an agreement Sept. 21, 2010, that defines the scope of a critical foreign military sales effort in Kyrgyzstan. The work will provide the foundation for a robust air traffic control system there. (Courtesy photo)

HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. (Sept. 29, 2010) — A delegation led by Electronic Systems Center Commander Lt. Gen. Ted Bowlds reached agreement with Kyrgyzstani government officials last week on efforts that will benefit the mountainous Asian nation and U.S. operators who rely on the Manas Transit Center there.

“This agreement marks the formal beginning of what I expect to be a strong, cooperative and mutually beneficial effort,” General Bowlds said. “It will allow us to build a foundation for a robust country-wide air traffic control system with increased safety and greater efficiency for all users.”

The pact sets the course for significant air traffic control upgrades at Manas and elsewhere, said Lt. Col. Robert Gallup, Program Control Branch chief and program lead within the Aerospace Management Systems Division of ESC.

“It allows us to meet the Kyrgyz’ top two priorities: en-route air traffic surveillance and a new, state-of-the-art, advanced air traffic control tower at Manas,” he said.

Last year, Congress appropriated $30 million to be used for such efforts. Various U.S. government agencies, including the State Department, began discussing how to best use the money to provide infrastructure improvements in the Kyrgyz Republic.

At the same time, U.S. Central Command, which relies on Manas to ferry troops, equipment and supplies in and out of Afghanistan and for refueling operations, solicited a study to determine the nation’s actual needs. An ESC team led that effort and produced a Regional Airspace Study, or RAS.

From that RAS and other studies, Kyrgyzstani officials eventually developed a list of priorities. The officials understood that the $30 million could not cover everything on their air traffic control (ATC) roadmap, however, said Cyndy Morgiewicz, chief of the Aerospace Management Division’s Foreign Military Sales Branch.

“We looked at various options for getting them as much as we could within the amount we have to work with,” she said. “Then we presented those options during the trip and came to an agreement on the final scope of the project.”

The agreement, signed Sept. 21 by General Bowlds and Kyrgyzstani Transportation Minister Erkin Isakov, will be followed by a formal Letter of Agreement, a standard part of any foreign military sales effort. With requirements agreed upon, the acquisition process can move forward.

The ESC team plans to hold an industry day, where they’ll lay out requirements for prospective vendors, in late October or early November, Ms. Morgiewicz said. The team expects to follow that up with a request for proposal in January and anticipates an award date – either for one comprehensive contract or two separate ones – in late spring.

“We’re looking at two to two-and-a-half years for completion after award, with most of that dedicated to the tower construction,” Colonel Gallup said. “The surveillance and communication pieces should be ready much sooner.”

The ESC team refined the requirements for the effort during a 10-day August trip to the country. The visual site assessments led them to choose what’s known as a Multi-lateration system for air surveillance. It consists of numerous small antennas, receivers, and transmitters networked together with wireless, fiber-optic or microwave communications equipment.

“This is a more modern approach to air traffic control than the legacy systems that relied on much larger secondary surveillance radars,” Colonel Gallup said. “It’s also easily expandable.” 

That’s important because, when and if additional funds become available, Kyrgyzstan will be able to build on these important, initial ATC steps, according to Ms. Morgiewicz.

“As General Bowlds noted during the signing ceremony, this work effort lays a solid path upon which the Kyrgyzstanis can build in future years,” she said.