The Pentagon is nearly finished renegotiating a massive contract with Boeing for its troubled next-generation airborne satcom terminals, but meanwhile the U.S. Air Force is establishing an alternate program path in case the company fails to perform.

A request for proposals for that alternate sourcing path to Boeing’s Family of Advanced Beyond Line-of-Sight Terminals (FAB-T) is expected as soon as this week, Lt. Gen. Ellen Pawlikowski, who oversees the Space and Missile Systems Center program for the Air Force, tells Aviation Week during this week’s 28th National Space Symposium here.

Meanwhile, she says the Air Force is close to sorting out a renegotiated contract for FAB-T with Boeing. It will shift from a cost-plus arrangement to a fixed-price deal, but “fixed price doesn’t guarantee schedule,” she says. This contributed to the Pentagon’s decision to find an alternate sourcing process.

FAB-T is the next-generation airborne terminal program that will allow U.S. military aircraft to communicate with the new Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF) satellite constellation being built by Lockheed Martin; the second AEHF satellite is set to launch in May. Though some terminals are being fielded for these new anti-jam, secure communications satellites to communicate with Army and Navy systems, the preponderance of Air Force platforms cannot.

“Our performance on this has not been outstanding. ... We understand that,” says Roger Krone, vice president of Boeing Network and Space Systems, of FAB-T. He notes that the company has about 18 months to turn its performance around and complete functional qualification testing. However, roughly 95% of the hardware work on the design is complete and officials are now inserting the software suite into it, he says.