Boeing, Raytheon Must Wait to Find Out Winner of Hotly Contested FAB-T Contract
Raytheon is in a head-to-head competition with The Boeing Co. to build the satellite terminals, which will connect to the new Advanced Extremely High Frequency satellites. The AEHF spacecraft are hardened against jamming and intended to provide protected communications in extreme conditions such as nuclear war.
The March decision will only be a downselect, and the final contract won’t be awarded until later this year, Scott Whatmough, vice president of integrated communications systems at Raytheon said during a conference call with reporters.
March is three months past earlier published reports that said the downselect may come in January. The Air Force is in silent period as it evaluates the two vendors’ proposals, he said.
The Air Force recently announced that it would only be purchasing command post ground stations meant for forward operating bases. Plans to integrate the terminals on B-2, B-52 bombers and RC-135 reconnaissance aircraft are on hold, he said.
The Air Force would be purchasing 84 ground stations, which includes the terminals themselves, the modems and antennas. The airborne version would have included 216 sets. Whatmough said he had no indication as to when funding to put the terminals in the aircraft would move forward.
If the Air Force proceeds with the downselect it will be the end of a long development road. Boeing was the original sole contractor on FAB-T when the program kicked off in 2002, but the program became mired in delays and cost overruns. The Defense Department decided to re-introduce competition into the program and selected Raytheon in 2012 to begin developing its own terminals. The motive was to bring down the cost and get the program back on schedule.
Whatmough would not disclose how much the Air Force would save by introducing competition into the program. Doing so might give away how much Raytheon plans to bid.
“Anytime there is competition, it forces creativity and innovative solutions,” he said. He was confident that the process will lower the price and, if Raytheon is selected, that it will be delivered on time.
Boeing in a Nov. 25 statement said it had completed the functional qualification testing phase.