Pentagon weapons czar John Young has instructed the Air Force to proceed without delay with a restructure of the transformational satellite communications program. Young signed an acquisition decision memorandum Dec. 3 instructing the Air Force to pursue “a phased approach for capacity growth of TSAT,” Defense Department spokesman Chris Isleib told the Daily Report yesterday. Under this approach, Young wants the Air Force to pursue a revamped, scaled-back program that will achieve the first launch of a TSAT satellite no later than Sept. 30, 2019. Reuters new service reported Dec. 9 that Young instructed the Air Force to “act immediately” on this directive, as he has been displeased with the pace of the program’s progress. As a result of the restructure, the initial TSAT spacecraft will not feature laser crosslinks, Isleib confirmed. These crosslinks were envisioned to move the vast amounts of communications data that the satellites will process around the constellation. Instead, the first satellites will rely on radio-frequency links, like those used in current Milstar communications satellites, to move data through and from space. TSAT satellites were conceived to provide secure access to the US military’s information-sharing networks for troops on the move. Boeing and Lockheed Martin have been competing to build the satellites, and have been operating under Air Force sponsorship to mature technology to reduce risk to the program. Earlier this year, the Air Force was working toward choosing the satellite provider by around the end of 2008. But then, based on changes favored by the Pentagon’s senior level deputy advisory working group and joint requirements oversight council, the program’s focus was modified. Young’s ADM codified the changes. Isleib said no date has been decided yet for the release of the solicitation to industry requesting bids.
The U.S. supports “a stronger and more capable” European defense, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III said during an Oct. 22 press conference in Brussels—but that defense should not duplicate the functions and capabilities of the NATO alliance.