[Via Satellite 12-09-2015] Earlier this fall, Raytheon reached the final marker, Milestone C, for the Family of Advanced Beyond Line of Sight Terminal (FAB-T) program, paving the way for Low Rate Initial Production (LRIP). The terminals, designed for the United States President, senior military advisors, and combatant commanders to have sustained communications in extreme conditions, are now complete in their design.
Scott Whatmough, vice president of integrated communications systems for Raytheon Space and Airborne Systems, told Via Satellite that completing the terminals went smoothly, as the company anticipated. The U.S. Air Force recompeted the FAB-T program after Boeing encountered significant delays in its development. Raytheon won the contract, touting that it had 80 percent of what was needed for the terminals already complete in the form of other terminal projects. The company amalgamated features from the Navy Multiband Terminal (NMT), Minuteman Minimum Essential Emergency Communications Network Program Upgrade (MMPU), and the Secure Mobile Anti-Jam Reliable Tactical Terminal (Smart-T) to accelerate FAB-T progress.
“What we focused on specifically in the 80 percent was the software baseline and the fact that the hardware needed to be reconfigured to survive in the environment, but the fundamental design existed,” said Whatmough. “So the 20 percent was the unique FAB-T software and then to reconfigure the hardware in such a way that it would be able to fit into the installation and survive the environment. We did realize those synergies.”
The FAB-T contract is structured into two blocks, for which Milestone C demonstrated the block one capability. Whatmough said Raytheon conducted 100 percent qualification and verification testing to prove that the block one system does what it is supposed to do, and is resilient enough to operate in challenged environments. Block two brings in some capability for future requirements.
“There were two LRIPs and several full-rate production options, and the government had the option to buy within certain quantity ranges in each one of the reviews. What we went through Milestone C for was the configuration that was required for LRIP-1, and then when we finish block two, then we will complete the development of everything and allow the government to move into LRIP-2 and beyond,” said Whatmough.
Whatmough said the initial LRIP order calls for Raytheon to produce six ground-based terminals and four airborne terminals, deliver spares and provide training, installation and logistical support. He said the company is scheduled to deliver its first LRIP terminal to the U.S. government late next summer. Testing of the LRIP-2/Full Rate Production terminal variant is scheduled to take place next year as well. Whatmough said completing block two development and getting on contract for the LRIP 2 quantities and configuration are the company’s primary goals for 2016.
“That prepares us to complete the delivery of all 84 systems and spares, depending on the government’s need for quantity,” he said. “They will buy the quantities they can buy in the timeframe they can buy, but our goal in the next year is to complete block two and get on contract LRIP 2. That opens the door for more production.”
The FAB-T contract calls for Raytheon to produce 84 command post terminals, 61 of which will be ground based, while 23 will be airborne. This number was originally higher, but budget cuts slashed the quantity. Whatmough noted that there is interest in FAB-T terminals beyond the Air Force contract as well.
“The Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF) capability is a critical secure communications capability that many both ground and airborne platforms will require,” he explained. “We are starting to see those materialize, and each one will be acquired in a different fashion. They won’t be part of the FAB-T contract — they will be up to each customer how they are acquired — but it will be the same functionality, the same software, same hardware, in some cases maybe reconfigured slightly for the uniqueness of some of the applications.”
FAB-T works with the U.S. government’s AEHF satellite network, is backwards compatible with the legacy Milstar EHF system, and handles low, medium and Extreme Data Rate (XDR) communications. Raytheon’s overall production contract with the Air Force is valued at $298 million. Whatmough said the company is executing to that contract.