Boeing Defense, Space and Security in June completed combined preliminary and critical design reviews on a secure U.S. military satellite ground-equipment program in a development that the company said marks progress on the troubled effort, which was restructured in April.

In an Oct. 8 press release, St. Louis-based Boeing tied the reviews to a critical strategic communications capability on the U.S. Air Force’s Family of Advanced Beyond-Line-of-Sight Terminals (FAB-T) program, which is designed to work with the service’s Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF) system of secure communications satellites as well as the legacy Milstar satellite system. The reviews validated design changes to add Presidential and National Voice Conferencing, a FAB-T capability that provides links between the president and senior U.S. national leaders.

The AEHF and legacy Milstar satellite systems provide command and control of strategic nuclear forces. The satellites are designed to provide secure, jam-proof links under all conditions, including a nuclear war environment. FAB-T will deliver communications from those satellites to the users, as well as relay commands to the spacecraft.

Boeing said the reviews also covered engineering changes needed to harmonize FAB-T with changes to the AEHF satellites.

The reviews cleared the way for Boeing to begin internal deliveries of software related to the presidential conferencing capability, the company said. The first of the internal software “drops” streamlines the FAB-T architecture by eliminating interfaces that no longer are required, Boeing said.

The FAB-T program has encountered delays and significant cost growth since Boeing won the prime contact in 2002. The Air Force threatened to terminate Boeing’s contract early this year but in April converted it from a cost-plus to a fixed-price arrangement instead.

At the same time, however, the Air Force has brought Raytheon aboard as an alternative contractor.

Under a $70 million firm, fixed-price contract awarded Sept. 10, Raytheon Network Centric Systems of Marlborough, Mass., will develop engineering models for the FAB-T Presidential and National Voice Conferencing capability.

The contract covers only completion of a critical design review and demonstration milestone next summer, Scott Whatmough, vice president of integrated control solutions for Raytheon, said Oct. 5. It funds 10 months of Raytheon’s 24-month performance period for the development phase.

Whatmough declined to provide the maximum contract potential for Raytheon’s work.