Boeing Nears FAB-T Completion, Raytheon Advances Alternative

By Amy Svitak svitak@aviationweek.com
Source: AWIN First
June 19, 2013
Credit: Boeing

With Boeing fighting to hang onto its $4.7 billion program to develop secure satellite terminals for the U.S. Air Force, Raytheon is wrapping up work on the initial stage of an alternative terminal development, and is gearing up to conduct an operational test of the system in October.

Raytheon lost the Family of Beyond-Line-of-Sight Terminals (FAB-T) program to Boeing more than 10 years ago. But after the Chicago-based defense contractor failed to meet expectations, the Air Force last fall awarded Raytheon a firm-fixed price contract valued at $70 million to conduct the first phase of development of an alternative FAB-T program.

Next month, Raytheon plans to complete work on the 10-month project, to include delivery of engineering development terminal models for the E-4 Advanced Airborne Command Post and E-6 Looking Glass aircraft nuclear-forces command system. Raytheon will also furnish ground-fixed and transportable versions capable of offering voice conferencing for users, including the president, says Scott Whatmough, vice president and general manager of Raytheon Integrated Communications Systems.

The FAB-T terminals are needed to communicate with a new generation of satellites, the Lockheed Martin Advanced Extremely High-Frequency (AEHF) spacecraft, the first of which became operational last February.

Whatmough says Raytheon completed critical design review (CDR) of its engineering development terminals in mid-June. The company is able to move quickly based on earlier work developing and producing three 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 have 80% of the functionality already,” Whatmough says, adding that Raytheon has adapted its experience with terminals developed for Army vehicles, Navy ships and Air Force ICBMs to a smaller form factor for airborne platforms. He says the next phase comes in October when Raytheon will test the hardware demonstrated in June with an orbiting satellite using a modified Milstar antenna.

“By September 2014 we’ll have a fully qualified, production-ready system” in ground-fixed, ground-mobile and airborne configurations, he said.

In the meantime, Boeing says its FAB-T development program is nearly complete, and is in the final stages of system-level functional qualification testing. Of the 11 engineering development models the company is to deliver, Boeing has delivered three ahead of the most recent schedule, says Richard Esposito, a spokesman for the company.

Esposito says the testing aims to verify that FAB-T delivers all required operational capabilities of the FAB-T’s advanced wideband terminal and command post terminal configurations.


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