Pentagon acquisition officials cleared the Family of Advanced Beyond Line-of-Sight Terminals (FAB-T) to enter low-rate initial production following a successful review, officials at Hanscom AFB, Mass., announced. “FAB-T will allow seamless, uninterrupted command and control of our strategic forces in any denied-access arena,” Space and Missile Systems Center Commander Lt. Gen. Samuel Greaves said in the Oct. 26 release. The Air Force awarded Raytheon a $298 million production contract for 23 airborne terminals, and 61 ground stations in 2014. The airborne terminals will equip the Air Force E-4B and Navy E-6B Mercury nuclear command and control fleets. The overall $4.6 billion FAB-T program will enable the President and national leaders to secure satellite communications, as well as command and control of US strategic forces, even in a nuclear environment. In addition to AEHF and Milstar satcom, FAB-T will give leaders secure voice conferencing, emergency action message transmission, satellite telemetry, and strategic force report-back capabilities, according to the release. The Air Force also intends to equip its nuclear-capable B-2 and B-52 bombers, and RC-135 ISR aircraft with FAB-T terminals under a future contract. Full operational capability is planned for 2022.
U.S. Air Force F-35s and F-22s regularly deploy deep into the Pacific region from Alaska, Utah, and Hawaii. In the future, though, the head of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command would like to see the Air Force permanently station fifth-generation aircraft west of the international date line—closer to China.