October 5, 2011

Boeing demonstrates advanced satellite communications in support of US command and control

References: Boeing (1, 2), SatNews (3), GlobalSecurity (4)

News Report

As announced in a recent press release, Boeing announced that it has successfully demonstrated high-data-rate transmissions between a Family of Advanced Beyond Line-of-Sight Terminals (FAB-T) and a test terminal for the Advanced Extremely High Frequency satellite (AEHF). This was one in a series of development tests that are demonstrating extended data rate voice, text and data communication with a FAB-T unit.

FAB-T will provide the U.S. Air Force and U.S. Navy with protected wideband satellite communications in support of command and control of U.S. nuclear forces.

The Technology

The FAB-T Nuclear Command and Control Network and Communication System program develops the architecture to support a family of satellite communications terminals for airborne, ground-fixed and ground-transportable applications. FAB-T provides the critical link enabling strategic nuclear command and control using the Milstar Extremely High Frequency (EHF) and Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF) waveforms. This capability enables the command and control of the AEHF and Milstar satellites and provides the President and strategic leadership the secure communications with forces to direct a strategic nuclear response.

FAB-T is an information and communications system, rather than a simple satellite radio terminal. The system is modular, reconfigurable, scalable and upgradeable. FAB-T provides multiple channels to enable simultaneous links via various beyond line-of-sight capabilities. The system is programmable and reconfigurable, allowing high-data-rate communications to be customized by the warfighter in the theater. FAB-T provides the framework for the highest data exchange rates available, providing communications on the move.

The recent demonstration, conducted in August at Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems in Redondo Beach, Calif., involved a FAB-T unit and an AEHF Universal System Test Terminal (AUST-T) communicating through a ground AEHF payload.

Using the latest program hardware, the terminal team successfully conducted extended data rate (XDR) re-key, XDR text communications, and dual FAB-T log-on with the AEHF payload. In separate testing essential to operating the fielded FAB-T system, Boeing also interfaced with the AEHF Satellite Mission Control Subsystem, demonstrating XDR capability with the AEHF ground satellite.

The Context

Boeing is working to provide the US Air Force with a fully capable, affordable system that supports the existing Milstar satellite constellation, its ground and airborne command-and-control terminals and the new AEHF satellite constellation. The program continues to make measurable progress against its planned baseline.

FAB-T is managed by the US MILSATCOM Systems Directorate at Los Angeles, California. The MILSATCOM Systems Directorate executes an annual budget over $2.4B as it plans for, acquires and sustains space-based global communications in support of the President, Secretary of Defense, and combat forces. The MILSATCOM enterprise consists of satellites, terminals and control stations and provides communications for over 16,000 air, land and sea platforms.

Boeing has assembled for FAB-T a best-of-industry team, comprised of the nation's leading satellite systems, communications terminals and high performance data link providers, to execute the terms of the contract for the first increment. Principal members include Harris, L-3, TRW and ViaSat.

The FAB-T program completed an Integrated Baseline Review in September of 2010 and expects to complete full capability terminal functional qualification in 2012, flight testing in 1QFY2013 and exercise low rate initial production option in 3QFY2013.

In April 2011, the U.S. Air Force installed, integrated and successfully flight-tested a FAB-T on a test version of an RC-135 Rivet Joint reconnaissance aircraft. The flight test demonstrated successful integration on the RC-135 aircraft using the FAB-T platform integration interface control documentation. The flight test team communicated from the air with test locations on the ground via a Milstar satellite. As part of the in-flight testing, voice, data, and text were shared between the aircraft and the ground users who were part of the demonstration network.
Boeing is conducting hardware qualification, and integration is continuing on the extended data rate (XDR) software for the system. There are many test events planned with the AEHF and Milstar satellites, including the flight test and interoperability testing with other EHF terminals. Boeing and the Air Force have multiple intersegment and satellite payload tests planned prior to on-orbit testing. FAB-T's XDR capability will provide US Air Force personnel with anti-jam, low probability of interception (LPI), low probability of detection (LPD), and improved data rates compared with earlier systems and software.


"With more than half of the system integration tests successfully completed, the FAB-T program is well on its way to starting system qualification testing in 2012," said Paul Geery, Boeing FAB-T vice president and program manager. "Boeing is committed to ensuring that the FAB-T program is successful and that we can deliver this advanced capability to the warfighter."

"These demonstrations are key progress indicators toward the start of functional qualification tests and increase warfighter confidence that FAB-T will support the required missions," Geery said.

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