Raytheon helps with switch from MILSTAR to AEHF SATCOM in contract to design nuclear-hardened terminals

Jan. 17, 2020
FET program will build test prototypes for qualification, software development, and integration aboard F-52 bomber and RC-135 Rivet Joint aircraft.

HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. – Military satellite communications (SATCOM) experts at the Raytheon Co. will switch SATCOM terminals aboard the U.S. Air Force B-52 strategic bomber and RC-135 reconnaissance aircraft to the latest Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF) satellite under terms of a contract worth nearly a half-billion dollars.

Officials of the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center at Hanscom Air Force Base, Mass., announced a $442.3 million contract Thursday to the Raytheon Space And Airborne Systems segment in Marlborough, Mass., for the Force Element Terminal (FET) program.

Raytheon will design radiation-hardened SATCOM terminals to switch the two aircraft from the Military Strategic Tactical Relay (MILSTAR) to the AEHF satellite constellations. Flight testing aboard the two aircraft is part of this contract.

The FET program will build test prototypes for qualification, software development, and integration aboard the F-52 bomber and RC-135 Rivet Joint aircraft.

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The FET project has two thrusts: building five baseline SATCOM systems from the existing AEHF product line, and installing these systems aboard B-52 and RC-135 aircraft for qualification testing; and building 12 test FET systems for certification to nuclear-hardened survivability requirements. The project also includes dual concurrent amplifier development.

The B-52 and RC-135 are strategic aircraft that must have the capability to receive orders from national command authorities even through nuclear explosions.

The AEHF satellite constellation relays relay secure communications for U.S., British, Canadian, Royal Netherlands, and Australian armed forces. AEHF is backward compatible with, and will replace, the older MILSTAR system and will operate at 44 GHz uplink in the EHF band, and 20 GHz downlink in the SHF band.

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AEHF satellites use many narrow spot beams directed towards the Earth to relay communications to and from users. Crosslinks between the satellites enable them to relay communications directly rather than via a ground station.

AEHF uses the existing MILSTAR low- and medium-rate data signals that move information at 75 to 2,400 bits per second, and at 4.8 kilobits per second to 1.54 megabits per second. AEHF satellites, unlike MILSTAR, also can move data at rates as fast as 8.2 megabits per second.

On this contract Raytheon will do the work in Marlborough, Mass.; and Largo, Fla., and should be finished by August 2023. For more information contact Raytheon Space and Airborne Systems online at www.raytheon.com, or the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center at www.aflcmc.af.mil.

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