Boeing Gets Competition from Raytheon on FAB-T

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WASHINGTON — Raytheon has been selected as a competing supplier for a U.S. military satellite communications equipment program on which the original prime contractor, Boeing, has struggled, the U.S. Air Force announced Sept. 4.

According to the announcement, Raytheon will develop a subset of the Family of Advanced Beyond Line-of-Sight Terminals (FAB-T) that provides “Presidential & National Voice Conferencing” and “Telemetry, Tracking & Commanding” capabilities. “The subset requirement is to ensure this critical capability is delivered to the Warfighter by the fourth quarter of Fiscal Year 2015,” the Air Force said.

Raytheon Network Centric Systems of McKinney, Texas, was the sole bidder for the work, the announcement said. The likely value of the pending contract was not disclosed but could be in the hundreds of millions of dollars given the nature of the work and the history of the FAB-T program.

The FAB-T terminals, to be used on the ground and aboard aircraft, are intended to work with the Air Force’s Advanced Extremely High Frequency secure communication satellites, the first of which is undergoing on-orbit testing, as well as the legacy Milstar system. These satellites carry some of the military’s most critical communications, including nuclear command and control.

Boeing Network and Space Systems of Arlington, Va., was selected as FAB-T prime contractor in 2002 but the program has since encountered lengthy delays and soaring costs. The Air Force acknowledged in February that the program’s cost had grown from an estimated $3.1 billion in 2006 to $4.6 billion.

After threatening to cancel Boeing’s cost-plus-award-fee FAB-T contract, the Air Force in April agreed to a restructured fixed-price arrangement that holds the company accountable for any additional cost growth.

Boeing has completed about 95 percent of the development phase of the program and expects to finish that work in early 2014, according to Paul Geery, the company’s FAB-T program manager. Boeing plans to focus on its own work rather than worry about the introduction of a competitor for terminal production, he said in a Sept. 6 telephone interview.

Peter Ramjug, a Raytheon spokesman, declined to comment Sept. 6 on the pending award.