Lockheed Martin, Hughes Space and Communications and TRW have formed a single "national" team to accelerate fielding of the Advanced Extremely High Frequency (EHF) system, follow-on to the US Department of Defense's (DoD) Milstar military communications satellite network.

To reduce the gap in secure communications coverage caused by the loss of the third Milstar in a launch failure last year, the DoD and Congress have agreed to scrap the competition now under way and award the Advanced EHF contract to a single combined team. Previously, Hughes was competing against a Lockheed Martin/TRW team for the five-satellite, $2.5-3 billion contract.

Lockheed Martin will be prime contractor for the Advanced EHF, which will provide 10 times the communications capacity of the Milstar II satellites. All three companies worked together under Lockheed Martin's leadership on the Milstar programme

Creation of the national team and elimination of the competition is expected to accelerate development of the Milstar replacement by 18 months. Production is planned to begin in April next year, with the first Advanced EHF launch now due in late 2004.

The decision to form a national team was taken after alternatives had been considered, including a proposal to build a replacement Milstar from components used for ground testing.

Source: Flight International