October 08, 2012
Credit: Credit: USAF
Amy Butler Washington
As Boeing fights to keep its $4.7 billion program to develop secure terminals for the nation's newest protected satellites, its competitors are posing a variety of alternatives.
The U.S. Air Force has now provided Raytheon—the competitor that lost the Family of Beyond-Line-of-Sight Terminals (FAB-T) 10 years ago—with $70 million as an alternate path should the latest restructuring to the Boeing effort once again fail to meet expectations.
Though terminal programs often take a backseat to their spaceborne satellite cousins, FAB-T would provide the last tactical mile of connectivity between the president and the U.S.'s nuclear bombers, missiles and submarines in the event of an attack.
Raytheon's firm, fixed-price contract was awarded Sept. 10 and requires delivery of engineering development terminal models for the E-4 Advanced Airborne Command Post used by the president and for the E-6 Looking Glass aircraft nuclear forces command system. The contract also calls for delivery of ground-fixed and transportable versions capable of offering voice conferencing for users, including the president, all by July 2013.
Boeing's restructured contract calls for development work to be ready in spring 2013. Functional qualification testing is set to begin in February, says company spokesman Richard Esposito.
The FAB-T terminals are needed to communicate with a new generation of satellites, the Lockheed Martin Advanced Extremely High-Frequency (AEHF) birds, the first of which became operational last February. However, the terminals will also be backward compatible for operation with five Milstar satellites already in orbit.
Though both the AEHF satellites repeatedly suffered delays and cost overruns, now that they are being launched the Pentagon's patience with problems in the terminal program is waning. Boeing's team competed a series of internal software deliveries last month to facilitate the addition of the presidential voice-conferencing capability to its restructured contract, Esposito says.