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Exclusive: Project Guardian Announcement Expected Soon

UK MOD expected to make RAF Project Guardian initiative announcement in coming weeks


Sources within the United Kingdom Ministry of Defence (MOD) have told MONS that the MOD is expected to make a, “major announcement,” regarding the Royal Air Force’s (RAF) Project Guardian initiative, “in the coming weeks.”

Project Guardian is an RAF programme to replace the force’s current UKADGE (UK Air Defence Ground Environment) air Command and Control (C2) system which protects UK national air sovereignty. The current system was provided by IBM and the UK government had originally been expected to make a so-called ‘Main Gate’ announcement regarding Project Guardian in the spring of 2017 which would detail the MOD’s commitment to fund the initiative, and to thus name a supplier. However this was prevented by the British Prime Minister Theresa May’s decision to call a snap general election which effectively shut down government decision-making on such matters until after the poll. 

It is expected that the forthcoming “major announcement” regarding Project Guardian could see the announcement of the MOD’s Main Gate decision. RAF sources have informed MONS that the incumbent UKADGE supplier, IBM, could be selected to develop the Project Guardian successor. That said, the UK also has the option of procuring the Thales/Raytheon ACCS (Air Command and Control System) software and hardware air C2 architecture which is being rolled out across the majority of NATO’s European membership to replace a disparate array of national air C2 systems and air operations planning and management tools with a single, scalable air C2 architecture which can be used to perform such functions and can be networked to form a combined ‘Super RAP (Recognised Air Picture)’ of European airspace, and its approaches. 

The logical step for the UK, it could be argued, would be to procure the ACCS hardware/software architecture off-the-shelf which would automatically afford a high degree of interoperability with the UK’s continental NATO allies. Nevertheless, elements of the RAF were reportedly dissatisfied with the ACCS when it was at a much earlier stage of development in the late 1990s/early 2000s. Since then, the ACCS architecture has commenced its roll-out across Europe. The author was informed that the replacement Project Guardian architecture will include a “gateway” to network it into the wider ACCS architecture and to share the UK RAP with its European allies. This would seemingly rule out any UK desire to procure ACCS off-the-shelf. 

Bizarrely, the UK appears to have ruled out an ACCS acquisition despite paying into the initiative’s budget as a NATO member. As one highly-placed industrial official closely linked with the ACCS programme told the author last year, this effectively means that the UK is paying twice for an air C2 system, by paying for the UKADGE and its replacement Project Guardian system, and continuing to pay into the NATO ACCS budget.

Thomas Withington


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