Satnews Daily
February 13th, 2020

SMC's $253+ Million to Northrop Grumman for Anti-jam Communications to Warfighters and More

The U.S. Space Force's Space and Missile Systems Center Development Corps. has signed a $253.6 million payload development award to Northrop Grumman for the first of up to four separate payload development awards for the Protected Tactical SATCOM (PTS) acquisition.

This effort, in alignment with SMC delivering warfighting capability at E.P.I.C. Speed (Enterprise, Partnership, Innovation, Culture and Speed), uses the FY 2016 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) Section 804 - “Middle Tier of Acquisition for Rapid Prototyping and Rapid Fielding,” and the FY 2016 NDAA Section 815 - “Amendments to Other Transaction Authority” to achieve an affordable, rapidly delivered, operational capability for tactical warfighters.

The U.S. Air Force's AEHF-5 Protected Communications satellite encapsulation. Photo is courtesy of Lockheed Martin.

PTS is the space component of the Protected Anti-jam Tactical SATCOM family-of-systems architecture that will provide resilient, worldwide, beyond line-of-sight, anti-jam communications to our tactical warfighters, resulting in improved combat effectiveness and fewer combat losses. PTS is a SMC Pacesetter program, demonstrating new processes while delivering rapid capabilities, and supporting SMC’s commitment to radically reducing time from acquisition to warfighter use.

Colonel Dennis O. Bythewood, program executive officer for SMC’s Development Corps., stated the organization is excited to partner with Northrup Grumman to enable the rapid development of a protected communications prototype payload. The technology maturation and prototyping effort conducted under the SpEC (Space Enterprise Consortium) Other Transaction Authority will allow SMC to harness the innovation of partnerships between traditional defense and non-traditional/small business contractors with a projected on-orbit capability three years earlier than a traditional acquisition.

Additionally, the U.S. Space Force Space and Missile Systems Center’s (SMC) fifth Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF-5) communications satellite was successfully transferred to Space Operations Command (SpOC).

Artistic rendition of an AEHF-5 satellite. Image is courtesy of the U.S. Air Force.

After successful completion of AEHF-5 on-orbit testing, SMC transferred Satellite Control Authority to the SpOC with AEHF-5 now under the control of military operators located at Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado. This significant achievement marks the final AEHF-5 milestone and the first transition of a satellite to the warfighter under the United States Space Force.

Launched on August 8, 2019, aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas-V 551 launch vehicle, AEHF-5 continues to ensure the health of the protected satellite communications constellation and its vital national security mission. AEHF is a joint-Service satellite communications system providing survivable, global, secure, protected and jam-resistant communications for high-priority military ground, sea and air assets. AEHF provides 10 times the throughput with a substantial increase in coverage for users, satisfying the ever-growing need to provide higher rates of data to support the warfighter worldwide.

AEHF provides connectivity across the spectrum of mission areas, including land, air and naval warfare; special operations; strategic nuclear operations; strategic defense; theater missile defense,  and space operations and intelligence. AEHF also provides protected satellite communications to our International Partners Canada, United Kingdom, Netherlands and Australia.  AEHF is the follow-on to the Milstar system, which augments, improves and expands DOD’s Military Satellite Communications architecture.

The sixth and final AEHF-6 satellite is scheduled to launch next month aboard an Atlas V from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.

Colonel John Dukes, senior materiel leader, Space Production Corps’ Geosynchronous Orbit Division, said this was very much a team effort from industry partners and dedicated Government professionals, with their focus on mission success this major milestone was accomplished. AEHF satellites play a critical role for the warfighter and the defense of the nation. Space is fundamental to everyone's way of life... the nation's economy relies on space and this reliance will continue to grow.