Low Cost Terminal to Provide Protected Satellite Communications to Warfighters

An industry funded development team led by Northrop Grumman Corporation and Lockheed Martin has successfully tested a Low Cost Terminal (LCT) with an on-orbit Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF) satellite. This critical milestone demonstrates the ability of an affordable tactical terminal to connect with the DoD's most highly assured protected communications network.

The Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF) system, designed for both strategic and tactical users, enables military users around the globe to securely transmit critical information which includes everything from nuclear command and control to real-time video, battlefield maps and targeting data. The AEHF system is already on orbit, and can potentially support many more users than there are terminals available today. LCT can enable more tactical warfighters to be able to use protected satellite communications, so they can have assured connectivity in contested environments.

This is the first time that a completely industry-funded and developed terminal has been allowed to access the AEHF satellite. In order to reach this milestone, the security architecture had to be validated by the appropriate organizations, and additional approvals had to come from Strategic Command and Air Force Space Command.  

The LCT is currently being developed in three variants: airborne, ground comm-on-the-move and rapidly deployable fixed terminal designs, which can also be deployed for maritime applications. Each variant is significantly smaller in size and weight than fully-capable strategic terminals, making them a better fit for tactical applications, while offering major cost and ease of use. The Industry team is seeking government partners to help champion the final production-version LCT for government certification. Provided testing and certifications are completed in time, the terminals can be available by the end of 2018. No other option for fielding protected SATCOM for the tactical warfighter is possible in the next few years.

The LCT takes advantage of Northrop Grumman and Lockheed Martin system knowledge and engineering experience gained over 30 years as providers of the nation's MILSTAR and AEHF satellite systems for protected military communications. They manage a team which combines commercial and military experience, small and large businesses, which has resulted in the innovations necessary to produce an LCT that will cost a small fraction of the cost of current generation terminals.