With Boeing fighting to hang onto its $4.7 billion program to develop secure satellite terminals for the U.S. Air Force, Raytheon is wrapping up work on the initial stage of an alternative terminal development, and is gearing up to conduct an operational test of the system in October.

Raytheon lost the Family of Beyond-Line-of-Sight Terminals (FAB-T) program to Boeing more than 10 years ago. But after the Chicago-based defense contractor failed to meet expectations, the Air Force last fall awarded Raytheon a firm-fixed price contract valued at $70 million to conduct the first phase of development of an alternative FAB-T program.

Next month, Raytheon plans to complete work on the 10-month project, to include delivery of engineering development terminal models for the E-4 Advanced Airborne Command Post and E-6 Looking Glass aircraft nuclear-forces command system. Raytheon will also furnish ground-fixed and transportable versions capable of offering voice conferencing for users, including the president, says Scott Whatmough, vice president and general manager of Raytheon Integrated Communications Systems.

The FAB-T terminals are needed to communicate with a new generation of satellites, the Lockheed Martin Advanced Extremely High-Frequency (AEHF) spacecraft, the first of which became operational last February.

Whatmough says Raytheon completed critical design review (CDR) of its engineering development terminals in mid-June. The company is able to move quickly based on earlier work developing and producing three similar terminals: the Army’s Secure, Mobile, Anti-Jam, Reliable, Tactical Terminal (Smart-T) and the Navy Multiband Terminal and Air Force Minuteman Minimum Essential Emergency Communications Network Program Upgrade (MMPU).

“We have 80% of the functionality already,” Whatmough says, adding that Raytheon has adapted its experience with terminals developed for Army vehicles, Navy ships and Air Force ICBMs to a smaller form factor for airborne platforms. He says the next phase comes in October when Raytheon will test the hardware demonstrated in June with an orbiting satellite using a modified Milstar antenna.

“By September 2014 we’ll have a fully qualified, production-ready system” in ground-fixed, ground-mobile and airborne configurations, he said.

In the meantime, Boeing says its FAB-T development program is nearly complete, and is in the final stages of system-level functional qualification testing. Of the 11 engineering development models the company is to deliver, Boeing has delivered three ahead of the most recent schedule, says Richard Esposito, a spokesman for the company.

Esposito says the testing aims to verify that FAB-T delivers all required operational capabilities of the FAB-T’s advanced wideband terminal and command post terminal configurations.

“Entering functional qualification testing in effect means that the design, hardware development, software development and integration phases are all complete,” he says, adding that the company completed CDR last year. “Boeing’s is the only industry offering that has achieved this level of development maturity.”

Boeing says flight tests this summer will validate FAB-T’s functional and operational performance under realistic aircraft dynamics. Test scenarios to be completed this summer involve ground-based and airborne terminals that communicate via the newly-on-orbit AEHF and Milstar satellites to validate operational performance under realistic conditions.

Another recent milestone is the successful demonstration of FAB-T’s integration with the AEHF and Milstar mission control subsystem, which commands both satellite constellations. The test validated FAB-T’s ability to control strategic satellite communications payloads in orbit. The AEHF and Milstar satellite constellations will relay FAB-T communications once FAB-T is operational.

“Boeing’s is the only industry offering that has demonstrated AEHF and Milstar satellite command and control capability, which is a requirement for FAB-T,” Esposito said.

Meanwhile, Raytheon hopes to receive an Air Force contract in the coming months to replace fixed and deployable communications for bomber, tanker, reconnaissance and other alert communications facilities under the Global Aircrew Strategic Network Terminal (GASNT).

“It’s the next significant AEHF opportunity,” Whatmough said.