Boeing has been awardedreceived a $1.09 billion U.S. Air Force contract for the third batch of Wideband Global Satcom (WGS) satellites, and is poised to start the final phase of pre-delivery tests for the first Block II variant.

The Air Force authorized procurement of long-lead material for WGS-7 in August 2010 as part of the new Block II follow-oncontract work, but negotiations and the award of the final deal have taken longer than expected. The Sept. 1. contract includes funding for production of WGS-7 as well as long-lead materials for WGS-8. In addition, the contract includes an option to “produce, process and launch and activate on-orbit Satellite Vehicles 9,” the Air Force says.

Thermal vacuum tests of the recently completed WGS-4 are set to begin in the next few days. The WGS-4 is scheduled for launch early in 2012, while the next pair of satellites already in advanced stages of completion are set for launch in late 2012 and early 2013, respectively. Boeing says the precise timing of the planned launch of both WGS-5 and 6 are contingent on the availability of launch vehicles.

A company spokeswoman says “All three Block I satellites have been delivered and are in operation over [the] Pacific, Eastern Atlantic and Middle East,” says a company spokeswoman. “Boeing continues to provide operational support for these satellites, which are meeting or exceeding all mission requirements.”

The value of the latest WGS contract is close to that of the $1.07 billion deal awarded by the Air Force in October 2006 for the Block II satellites. These second-generation versions are configured with a radio-frequency bypass capability designed to support airborne intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance platforms requiring ultra-high bandwidth. They also are designed to support the high data rates demanded byunmanned aerial vehicles. UAVs.

The third of the second batch, WGS-6, is partially funded by Australia following negotiation of a memorandum of understanding that enables the Australian Defense Force to access the satellite for services worldwide.