Thursday, February 05, 2009

Program office makes first FAB-T delivery this week

By Chuck Paone, 66th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

A new family of satellite communication terminals, known as Family of Advanced Beyond Line-of-Sight Terminals, or FAB-Ts, are under development and being tested. Eventually they will be installed in aircraft like the RC-135 Rivet Joint shown here. FAB-T will provide information to and from ground and airborne platforms over protected and wideband satellite communications and line-of-sight systems. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Deborah Davis)

HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. (AFMCNS) — This week, officials here provided the first of a new family of satellite communication terminals to the B-2 program office, making it easier to move large amounts of voice, data, imagery, and video to and from the platform.

This iteration of the Family of Advanced Beyond Line of Sight Terminals, or FAB-T, is what's known as an engineering development model. It will be used to support aircraft platform integration and testing, according to Capt. Jeremy Kruger, FAB-T's systems engineering and test Integrated Product Team leader.

Many additional terminals will be provided in the next few months, including one to support flight testing planned for spring 2009, he said.

FAB-T will provide information to and from ground and airborne platforms over protected and wideband satellite communications and line-of-sight systems. FAB-T is required to be interoperable with all Air Force, Army and Navy extremely high frequency, or EHF, terminals.

This delivery comes on the heels of a successful December demonstration during which program officials used FAB-T to successfully send and receive text over an operational Milstar satellite. The demonstration transferred information between an engineering development model terminal stationed in a contractor facility in Salt Lake City, Utah, and a Milstar Air Force Command Post Terminal in Bedford, Mass.

"This demonstration not only showed the ability of the terminal to communicate over the operational satellite; it also showed interoperability with the current workhorse terminal for nuclear command and control," said Captain Kruger.

Lt. Col. Mark Davis, FAB-T Increment-1 program manager, lauded the combined government-contractor teams for the success.

"Their diligence helped achieve this critical milestone, providing the first end-to-end confirmation of the FAB-T strategic communications capability that will be critical for our nation's nuclear command and control mission," the colonel said.

Program managers here are using an evolutionary acquisition approach to provide this family of multi-mission capable terminals, all to be built on an open architecture. The acquisition strategy is structured around four increments, Captain Kruger said. Each increment will provide more capability than the last.

Through the increments, terminals will be installed on various military platforms, enabling strategic and conventional bombers, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance aircraft, special air mission aircraft, and strategic airlift platforms to maintain connectivity with rear and deployed forces.

In early testing, FAB-T has already demonstrated interoperability at low data rates with the Air Force legacy command post terminal and the Army Single Channel Anti-jam ManPortable Terminal, said Jeff Rattray a 46th Test Squadron contractor supporting FAB-T.

Ultimately, the Increment One FAB-T will be capable of sending data at rates from 75 bits per second up over eight Megabits per second, Mr. Rattray said.

Increment 1 of FAB-T develops a protected, survivable, and enduring satellite communications terminal to support EHF nuclear command and control. After DoD launches the Advanced EHF satellites, it will provide higher data rate communications for other missions.

It will be fielded to multiple airborne platforms and ground sites. It will also provide the first EHF capability for the bomber fleet and replace the current Milstar Air Force command post terminal at many ground command and control sites around the world.

In January, FAB-T began functional qualification testing in support of this first delivery to the B-2 Program office. FAB-T Increment 1 will be installed on B-2, B-52, RC-135, E-4, and E-6 aircraft. It will be installed at ground command posts around the world in fixed and transportable configurations.

The prime contractor is Boeing, Huntington Beach, Calif., and the major subcontractors involved in the development are L-3 Communications West in Salt Lake City, UT, Rockwell Collins International (RCI) in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and ViaSat Inc., Carlsbad, Calif.