Raytheon Ready to Proceed With FAB-T in Wake of Victory Over Boeing

By Stew Magnuson
 The Raytheon Co. is preparing to ramp up production of the family of advanced beyond line of sight terminals (FAB-T) program now that the Air Force has changed course and awarded the company what remains of the once troubled program.
“I think we have demonstrated that we are up to the task of delivering that system,” Scott Whatmough, vice president of integrated communications systems at Raytheon, told reporters July 10.
The Air Force on June 2 awarded Raytheon a $298 million contract to deliver and support 84 FAB-T command posts, which will connect to the new Advanced-Extremely High Frequency satellites. The A-EHF spacecraft are hardened against jamming and intended to provide protected communications in extreme conditions such as nuclear war.  
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.
A Boeing spokesman a week after the award told the industry publication Space News that it would not launch a protest.
The command posts include the terminals themselves, the modems and antennas. They come in four categories: fixed ground stations, mobile ground stations and two airborne versions that go aboard the Air Force E-4 advanced airborne command post — better known as the “Nightwatch” — and the Navy’s E-6 Mercury.
Raytheon will go through two rounds of low-rate initial production before the Air Force reaches a Milestone C decision, after which the company can proceed with full-rate production. Whatmough declined to speculate on when the Air Force may reach that decision. Because of the program’s long history and high profile, many officials have to sign off on it. He hoped it would come within one year.
Absent in the contract was the award of some 216 airborne terminals that were once slated to go aboard a variety of aircraft.  
“It’s very much up in the air,” Whatmough said of the other terminals. The Air Force was still sorting through which aircraft needed the system, and when they would need it. “I don’t think [the Air Force] is quite there yet.”
In the future, A-EHF capabilities will probably grow in demand, and applications may spread, he said. Once service members realize that they have a new jam-resistant, highly secure, encrypted communications system available, they will want to use it.
“We have been in this EHF business for 30 years, and the one thing that is consistent is that when this capability becomes available to the war fighter, more and more people want it,” he said.
As for the A-EHF satellites, that program also went through program delays. The first reached orbit in 2010, four years after originally scheduled. Currently, only three of the planned six spacecraft have been launched.
Three partner nations share time on the A-EHF spacecraft, including The Netherlands, Canada and the United Kingdom. The satellite’s manufacturer Lockheed Martin announced June 10 that all four participating nations were now using the spacecraft after U.K. forces connected its terminals to the system in May. The remaining three spacecraft are expected to be launched in the 2017 to 2019 timeframe.

Topics: C4ISR, Tactical Communications, Space

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