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GlobalSecurity.org In the News

The Washington Post November 20, 2001

Lockheed, TRW Win U.S. Satellite Contract

By Renae Merle

Two of the country's largest government contractors, Lockheed Martin Corp. and TRW Inc., will build the next generation of secured satellite systems under an Air Force contract worth more than $ 2.6 billion.

Lockheed Martin Space Systems and TRW Space and Electronics will launch satellites beginning in 2006 that advance the military's communications capabilities in wartime scenarios. For example, while many submarines currently use low-frequency systems such as Morse code to transmit information, the new satellites will quickly transmit detailed maps and large data documents. The system will deliver "the coverage, capacity, connectivity and flexibility needed to provide unprecedented levels of assured communications . . . for our armed forces," Jeff Harris, president of Lockheed Martin Space Systems, said in statement.

The Advanced Extremely High Frequency Program (known as Advanced EHF) will eventually replace the military's Milstar program, which suffered a setback in 1999 when one of its $ 800 million satellites didn't reach orbit. That has left the global communications system vulnerable to gaps in coverage, similar to the gaps customers sometimes find in cellular telephone service.

The Milstar program also was criticized by the General Accounting Office as outdated and inefficient. In fact, the program was designed by Bethesda-based Lockheed Martin, TRW and Boeing Co. during the Cold War to withstand the radiation from a nuclear blast. "Milstar was designed for a world that no longer exists," said John Pike, director of the nonprofit think tank GlobalSecurity.org.

In comparison, virtually the same contractors are now being commissioned to build the Advanced EHF. The new system will help U.S. forces securely swap real-time video, battlefield maps, targeting data and other tactical military communications. The new system can still withstand a nuclear blast but will have a wider bandwidth that will allow it to transmit substantially more data.

Still, the Advanced EHF system has suffered its own delays. The program was originally expected to begin launching satellites in 2004, but the military requested more technological capabilities, which delayed the start to 2006, Lockheed Martin said.

As the first two satellites launch, the U.S. Air Force will analyze alternatives for rest of the program, which may include launching three more satellites, a Lockheed Martin spokesman said.

Last week, Boeing withdrew from the program, which has been in the works for nearly 10 years. Boeing was to build a segment of the program's electronics, but it said in a statement that its share of the contract shrank while "the technical and financial risks we were being asked to take on this challenging program were disproportionate to our role."

"Ultimately, our decision has allowed the team to reduce their price by eliminating one of the program offices and enabled them to get within the fixed-price structure," the company said in a statement. TRW will take over Boeing's responsibilities on the project.

Copyright 2001 The Washington Post