For Air Force, 4th AEHF Satellite Appears Likely


The Senate Appropriations Committee marked up a 2008 defense spending bill Sept. 12 that applies the brakes to two of the U.S. Air Force’s biggest satellite development

programs, the Transformational Satellite Communications system (T-Sat) and the GPS 3

navigation system.

The committee also directed

the Air Force to buy a fourth satellite under T-Sat’s predecessor program, the Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF) system, and added $125 million to the AEHF budget for that purpose. Current Air Force plans call for buying three AEHF satellites before moving on to T-Sat.

In its version of the defense appropriations bill, the House also added $125 million to the White House’s AEHF request and directed that the money go toward a fourth satellite. The Senate committee’s action makes it likely that the final version of the 2008 appropriations bill will direct the Air Force to begin procurement of a fourth AEHF satellite.

The Senate committee

slashed $200 million from the president’s budget request for

T-Sat, saying in the report accompanying the bill that the

program should be slowed down to ensure that it is “fiscally and technically executable.”

Budget request estimates project


, featuring satellites equipped with laser links and Internet Protocol router technology, will

cost $11.4 billion from

2008 through 2013, the Senate report says. Recent

history suggests, however,

that figure will wind up being

significantly higher, report language says


On GPS 3,

the panel recommended

cutting $150 million from the president’s request of

$587.2 million.


report says full funding for GPS 3 is premature

given the

procurement and launch schedules of the predecessor systems, GPS 2R-M

and GPS 2F


The Senate committee agreed with the president

and House

in funding

a third Space-Based Infrared System (SBIRS) missile warning satellite but still recommended trimming

$119 million

from the

request for that program


Noting that


finally appears to be on track,

the Senate panel sided with the House in slashing funding for the follow-on program, the Alternative Infrared Satellite System. The report


fully funding the White House’s $231

million request for the program would be premature.

The Senate bill did not disclose a funding figure for the proposed Space Radar. However, a Senate source said the bill provides no funding for that program.

Once the proposed appropriations bill is passed by the full Senate, selected members of the House and Senate appropriations committees will meet in conference to hammer out a final version of the bill.