Award helps build network centric warfare infrastructure and secure for bombers and command posts

The networks underpinning the US Department of Defense's network-centric warfare concept are taking shape, with a Boeing-led team selected to develop the Family of Advanced Beyond Line-of-Sight Terminals (FAB-T) to provide secure satellite communications.

Along with the Joint Tactical Radio System (JTRS), development of which was awarded to another Boeing-led team earlier this year, FAB-T will help create a network architecture in which all communications waveforms are encoded in software, rather than embedded in hardware.

Under the initial $273 million FAB-T contract, the Boeing team will deliver development terminals in 2006 for integration with the Boeing B-52 and Northrop Grumman B-2 bombers, Boeing E-4B and E-6B command post aircraft, Boeing RC-135 electronic intelligence platform and ground command centres. Boeing is teamed with Harris, L-3 Communications, TRW and ViaSat.

FAB-T will provide access to Milstar satellites and their Advanced EHF replacements, which will introduce a wideband communications capability. The software-programmable terminals will also provide growth to handle other networks, including the Global Broadcast System and future Ka/Ku-band satellites.

The first prototype terminals will be delivered to the B-2 programme, which will supply its own antenna, says FAB-T programme manager Sean Rice. The Boeing team will supply both the terminal and antenna for the B-52 and other platforms. Production is to begin in 2006, with 46 platforms scheduled to be equipped with 10 different terminal configurations.

Boeing will use the same software-compliant architecture for both JTRS and FAB-T, says Alex Lopez, director, network communications systems. The company is leading the team developing 21 waveforms under JTRS Cluster 1, covering software-programmable radios for the US Army. The competition for Cluster 4, airborne radios for the US Air Force and Navy, should begin early next year.

While the US Army awarded Boeing the JTRS Cluster 1 prime contract, with radio production to be competed between team members BAE Systems and Rockwell Collins, the USAF has yet to decide its acquisition strategy. Studies could begin early next year, leading to a contract award within a year.

In addition to replacing existing tactical radios and datalinks, JTRS will be the terminal for the planned Mobile User Objective System (MUOS), a narrowband UHF satcom constellation modelled on Iridium. Lockheed Martin and Raytheon have been awarded 14-month, $40 million US Navy contracts for the component advanced development phase of MUOS. First launch is scheduled for 2008.

Source: Flight International