FARNBOROUGH and PARIS — Nearly 10 years after it lost to in its original bid for the U.S. Air Force’s Family of Advanced Beyond-line-of-sight Terminals (FAB-T), may now get another shot at the estimated $4.7 billion program.
FAB-T will facilitate communications between military aircraft and the Pentagon’s new Advanced Extremely High Frequency () satellite constellation. Boeing won the initial $273 million contract in September 2002. But after a decade of cost overruns and schedule delays, the Air Force decided to restructure the contract earlier this year.
In June, Raytheon submitted proposals to the Air Force under the service’s FAB-T alternate program, which aims to provide a backup to the program of record while pressuring Boeing to keep development on track for initial operational capability by 2017 — three years after AEHF is scheduled to enter initial operational capability. Boeing, meanwhile, insists FAB-T development is all but complete.
Raytheon’s bid was delivered on the heels of Air Force negotiations with Boeing that ultimately will allow the Chicago-based company to continue FAB-T under a fixed-price agreement aimed at curbing development cost increases, which have ballooned from an estimated $1.537 billion in December 2006 to $2.3 billion last year, an increase of 52% according to the.
Raytheon, which unsuccessfully protested the Air Force’s original FAB-T award to Boeing, and which appears to be the only bidder for the alternative program work, currently produces three AEHF military terminals that already meet 80% of the Air Force’s satcom terminal requirements.
Andy Zogg, vice president for business development at Raytheon, says Raytheon hardware that supports U.S. Army and Navy operations on Milstar satellites has been tested with the Air Force’s lone on-orbit AEHF spacecraft and has demonstrated interoperable communications. He says the company is hopeful its June bid will result in an alternate FAB-T development contract by the end of September.
“It’s really reusing what we’ve already developed in terms of the qualification tests, the satellite tests, which are very expensive, very time consuming,” Zogg says. “Once you’re qualified, you really want to leverage that capability into the future.”
Under the terms of Boeing’s rebaselined FAB-T contract, the company is expected to complete remaining development work on the next-generation communications capability, with some additional enhancements, by spring 2013.
Roger Krone, president of Boeing Network and Space Systems, admits the Boeing-led industry team did not properly manage its supply base and manufacturing processes, and says the company failed to fully grasp the scope of work required for the program.
“I’m not sure anyone in the community really understood what it was going to take to duplicate things that we’d always done in hardware and firmware,” he said. “We all made a big mistake and we all drank from the same pitcher of Kool-Aid and we thought this would be simple.”
With FAB-T development now expected to be complete early next year, Krone anticipates a competition for production will follow.
“We should be at a point where the customers can make a decision whether we’re delivering against the program of record in the spring of 2013,” Krone said.