Huge Win For T-Sat Builders

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One of the most important program decisions of this administration was made on Tuesday last week. After years of dithering, the Pentagons Deputys Advisory Working Group (known affectionately as the DAWG) approved Tier 2 -- the next stage of the Transformational Satellite Communications system.

For a program that had just been whacked by $4 billion over the fiscal 2009 Program Objective memorandums five years this is a remarkable achievement and is testament to the enduring need for enormous amounts of protected communication bandwidth. Lockheed Martin and Boeing executives, who just four months ago feared the program was headed for the trash heap of history, were elated. Lockheed partners with Northrop Grumman and Juniper Networks on the program. Boeing partners with Cisco and Hughes.

T-Sat, aside from providing the vaunted comms on the move capability, will provide something even more important enough bandwidth for the Armys future Combat System and other key joint systems to function. There are two separate T-Sat programs -- the ground segment and the satellite segment. The DAWG meeting approved going ahead with the satellites and the plan is to build five of them and one spare.

The June 10 decision came as quite a surprise to several industry players. One told us Thursday that their company could not believe that the Pentagon leaders had approved the program unanimously.

The DAWGs action spells an end to several years of questions about whether to go with what many people have called T-Sat light, which would have been basically a fifth version of the Advanced Extremely High Frequency satellite. Congressional staff had been leaning increasingly to such a solution to cover what they feared might be an 18-month gap in protected comms coverage as the old MILSTAR satellites began to fail.

The gap is no longer a concern, according to a senior Pentagon source, adding that launch is now set for 2018. This source says that the DAWG locked in the T-Sat requirements. Doing that basically means that this program barring major technical or schedule screwups is likely set for a long life.

-- Colin Clark

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