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MILITARY COMMUNICATIONS
Boeing to build Air Force satellite

disclaimer: image is for illustration purposes only
by Staff Writers
St. Louis (UPI) Aug 23, 2010
Boeing is to build a new satellite for the U.S. Air Force to enhance the U.S. military's capacity for intelligence, surveillance and battle-readiness operations worldwide.

Boeing will construct the Wideband Global SATCOM satellite -- the seventh in a series -- as part of a follow-on contract worth $182 million that comes amid general belt-tightening in the defense industry.

With conflict continuing in Afghanistan, an uneasy drawdown in Iraq and continued challenges from al-Qaida hot spots in the Middle East and Africa, military planners said there was a need for a high-capacity satellite to join the network.

Three of the six WGS satellites ordered earlier are in orbit and another three will join the constellation in Earth orbit by 2013.

"In a time of budgetary pressures, the award of this contract signifies the high-priority need of U.S. warfighters around the world for responsive and robust wideband communications," said Air Force Col. Don Robbins, WGS group commander.

"It also recognizes the outstanding service being provided to our warfighters every day by the three on-orbit WGS Block I satellites already fielded by the Air Force and Boeing team."

The digitally channelized, transponded satellites are key to the U.S. military effort globally, as they provide connectivity and flexibility for forces on ground whether in peacetime or in battle.

WGS is key to providing communications for combatant commanders to control tactical forces. WGS gives commanders high-capacity connectivity that wasn't available earlier.

Upon its launch into in 2007, the first WGS satellite became the premier U.S. military communications satellite. Each vehicle weighs about 13,000 pounds at launch and about 7,600 pounds when in orbit at an altitude of 22,300 miles.

Boeing said the follow-on contract will ultimately include options for production of up to six more WGS satellites.

Boeing's Craig Cooning, vice president and general manager of the company's space and intelligence systems, stressed the imperative of continuing to fulfill the military's need for robust communications "in a timely, cost-effective manner."

He described WGS "as a battle-tested solution that can evolve, using cost-effective methods, to meet emerging warfighter requirements such as communications-on-the-move for small mobile users, as well as airborne intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance data-relay capabilities."

Each of the satellites costs about $350 million, the U.S. Air Force Space Command said in an online background brief on the WGS program.

WGS satellites deliver fast, flexible broadband communications services to remote areas. They can deliver service to new users within hours and be repositioned in orbit to meet changing mission requirements, Boeing said.

Likewise the satellite's sophisticated gadgetry can reconfigure coverage areas and connect users anywhere within the satellite's field of view through an on-board digital channelizer. Those features aren't available on any other communications satellite.

Each WGS vehicle provides 10 times the capacity of a DSCS III Service Life Enhancement Program satellite. The Defense Satellite Communications System, now in its third phase, was launched in the 1980s.

Boeing Defense, Space and Security is a $34 billion business with headquarters in St. Louis.



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