WASHINGTON, Feb 6 (Reuters) - A $1.6 billion ground control system being developed by Raytheon Co for Global Positioning System (GPS)satellites passed a Pentagon review, but will be monitored to ensure it stays on track, a senior Air Force official said on Friday.
Major General Roger Teague, director of space programs for the Air Force acquisition chief, told reporters a "deep dive" review Thursday by chief arms buyer Frank Kendall went well, but program officials and the contractor got "tough marching orders" to stick to schedule and cost targets.
Last week, Raytheon Chief Executive Officer Tom Kennedy told analysts that problems with the program had been resolved, and he did not expect an 80 percent cost increase to affect the company's financial results.
Michael Gilmore, the Pentagon's chief weapons tester, warned in a report to Congress last month that delays in delivery of the Operational Ground Control System (OCX) posed risks to the Air Force's ability to operate GPS satellites.
The report cited a three-year delay in the operational evaluation of the new ground system to early 2019, and said the Air Force would not receive the first OCX control station until after up to eight GPS III satellites were built and launched.
Lockheed Martin Corp builds the GPS III satellites, but the program has faced delays due in part to technical challenges with a sensor built by Exelis Inc.
Air Force officials said Lockheed missed expectations on the program, but they had not decided whether to open the next set of GPS III satellites to competition.
The Air Force's Space and Missile Systems Center said the schedule for the OCX system was in synch with the needs of the satellite constellation, but further delays were possible.
"There is a risk of further slips to OCX which could require a contingency operations capability" that would allow GPS III satellites to enter service before the ground station is delivered, said Tina Greer, spokeswoman for the center.
She said the Air Force was studying options to keep the program on schedule, but gave no details.
Raytheon said it will deliver a separate early OCX system in time to support the launch of the first GPS III satellite.
Teague acknowledged past problems with the OCX program, but said ultimately it would deliver the "most hardened information assurance system ever delivered by the Department of Defense, meeting complex and demanding cybersecurity requirements. (Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by David Gregorio)