Meanwhile, the Pentagon is also exploring ways to reshape its protected, secure constellation. Though the first two Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF) satellites made by Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman are up, they will not provide service until early next year. The legacy Milstar system is still enabling all of the nuclear-hardened, secure communications now.
The Pentagon has plans to buy six AEHF satellites, so the next opportunity to introduce a new concept is likely in the fiscal 2016 or 2017 budget plan; the former will be assembled next summer. Air Force officials are looking at the use of a “disaggregated” architecture that splits off some of the tactical, protected missions onto their own satellite. This would allow for the construction of smaller, ostensibly cheaper, satellites capable of providing secure communications on the move without the cost associated with the nuclear-hardened mission for providing communications between the president and bomber and submarine forces in the event of an attack.