The Air Force's FAB-T system will work in conjunction with Lockheed Martin's AEHF satellite constellation, as seen in this rendering. (Lockheed Martin)
The Air Force has decided to limit the scope of its Family of Advanced Beyond Line-of-Sight Terminals (FAB-T) deployments, a direct result of Pentagon-wide budget cuts. The decision means that the service will procure only 84 command post terminals for America’s fleet of B-2, B-52 and RC-135 aircraft, more than 100 fewer than earlier envisioned.
FAB-T will provide the nation’s leaders with secure command and control communications, even in the event of a nuclear war. The terminals are designed to work with the service’s Advanced Extremely High Frequency, or AEHF, network of secure satellites.
Raytheon and Boeing are the two competitors for the program, which is expected to select a winner by the end of March.
“The Air Force recently made a decision to only award production for the command post terminals,” Scott Whatmough. VP of integrated communication systems at Raytheon, said on a Jan. 22 conference call. “There had been potential for both command post and airborne wideband terminals, but due to the budgeting process for 2015, money was not allocated for those terminals.”
The program took a small cut in the 2014 omnibus bill passed by Congress last week. Appropriators took out $10 million from the military satcom budget line, as well as another $6 million for FAB-T from the E-6 Mercury budget line. What the budget might look like in future years is unclear, but Whatmough sees support for the program to continue. While claiming no special insight into the chances of the Air Force adding terminals in the future, Whatmough said he doesn’t expect the need for bomber terminals to go away.