Air Force nearing completion of satellite communications system

The service gives Lockheed a $48 million contract modification to finish work on AEHF, which is replacing the Milstar constellation.

The Air Force is ready to take its Advanced Extremely High Frequency satellite communications system, which will provide secure, high-data-rate, jam-resistant global communications for high-priority assets of the United States and some international partners, to full operational capability.

The service has awarded Lockheed Martin Space Systems a $48 million contract modification to continue the transition of AEHF from initial to full operational capability, as it replaces the Milstar constellation.  The first AEHF satellite was launched in 2010, with the second going up in 2012 and the third in 2013. In January 2013, Lockheed received a 10-year, $1.9 billion contract modification for the fifth and sixth satellites.

Milstar, which had its first launch in 1994, is a five-satellite constellation providing worldwide communications.  AEHF, which operates in geosynchronous orbit, is intended to be a six-satellite constellation designed to provide jam-resistant extremely high frequency range uplink/ crosslink capabilities and super high frequency communications, according to the Air Force.

In addition to reducing costs, AEHF will boost connectivity, with each satellite providing greater capacity than the entire Milstar constellation, with each providing a five-fold increase in transmissions, enabling features such as real-time video, battlefield maps and targeting data, according to Lockheed. The system also serves U.S. allies, including Canada, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom.

Work under the current contract modification is expected to be completed by the end of July 2018.