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.
Roger Krone, president of Boeing Network and Space Systems, admits that the company underestimated the complexity of managing the effort, but he contends that the delivery date can be met.
Meanwhile, Raytheon is receiving a second lease on life in this program, after being criticized in the competition a decade ago for relying too much on old software language.
The first deliverables are expected in 10 months, and the company can move at a fast clip owing to its existing work developing and producing three other, similar terminals: the Army's Secure, Mobile, Anti-Jam, Reliable, Tactical Terminal (Smart-T) and the Navy Multiband Terminal and Air Force Minuteman Minimum Essential Emergency Communications Network Program Upgrade (MMPU). “We are not starting from scratch,” says Scott Whatmough, vice president of integrated communications systems. “We have 80% of the functionality already.” The task ahead for Raytheon is to adapt its experience with these terminals designed for Army vehicles, Navy ships and Air Force ICBMs to a smaller form factor for use on weight-sensitive aircraft. Each of these programs has been through full qualification testing and is in manufacturing.
At the end of the 10 months, Raytheon will be required to deliver real hardware in actual circuit cards, though qualification—a time-consuming process—would come later if the Air Force opts for this design. Whatmough says the company's waveform has already been tested with the actual AEHF satellite in orbit and is “fully operational.” The Raytheon-government team mapped out a 24-month program that includes off-ramps should the service opt for Boeing's design.
As these two contractors duel for the FAB-T requirement, AEHF satellite manufacturers Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman—provider of the communications payload—are making a play for at least some of this business.
The pair, teamed with TeleCommunications Systems, based in Annapolis, Md., says they have developed a protected satellite communications family of terminals at no cost to the U.S. Defense Department. The terminals could be ready for production once a government agency certifies its cryptological system.
The team intentionally designed the terminals to a streamlined set of requirements—only addressing the “must haves” for the Army. The terminals—Protected Communications on the Move and Protected SIPR/NIPR Access Point [Secret Internet Protocol Router/Nonclassified Internet Protocol Router networks] (P-SNAP)—lack the nuclear-hardening and communications architecture planning services available in the aforementioned programs already underway for the Pentagon. They still will address the voice, data, video and low-probability-of-detection/low-probability-of-intercept needs of soldiers on the move, says Fred Ricker, vice president of Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems. The extra requirements, though, drive much of the cost.
Officials say the terminals are not intended to compete directly with existing, protected EHF terminals. However, some of these efforts have struggled owing to technology maturation and cost, and there could be a business opportunity if the services want a quick solution for a portion of their forces.