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Global ASNT awards contract, moves toward next phase

BARKSDALE AIR FORCE BASE, La. – Aircrew from the 96th Bomb Squadron run to a B-52H Stratofortress after the sounding of the Klaxon during a Nuclear Operational Readiness Exercise May 25. The Klaxon is a horn that emits an alert sound that was previously used as hand-powered warning system for military evacuation, and as a submarine dive alarm. This warning is currently used electronically on trains, ships and aircrew who are on alert and may need to take-off at a moment’s notice. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Joanna M. Kresge)

An aircrew from the 96th Bomb Squadron run to a B-52H Stratofortress after the sounding of the klaxon during a Nuclear Operational Readiness Exercise at Barksdale Air Force Base, La. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Joanna M. Kresge)

HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. -- After recently moving into the engineering and manufacturing development stage, the Global Aircrew Strategic Network Terminal, or Global ASNT, program office awarded a contract to Raytheon last month, ushering the program into the first of three incremental phases.

The $134 million Increment 1 contract is a 36-month development effort where Raytheon will be responsible for developing new command and control terminals for the Air Force's nuclear bomber mission. The entire contract could grow to almost $500 million based on the Air Force exercising options for production, training, fielding and initial sustainment.

"The Global ASNT team is very excited to reach this important milestone," said Lt. Col. Kenneth Decker, Global ASNT program manager. "We have worked diligently over the past few years to set a solid program foundation; by working with the operational users to refine affordable requirements and define a low risk acquisition strategy, we are confident that we will be successful. We're anxious to begin work with our industry partners to bring this much needed system to the warfighter."

The program office focuses on engineering and sustaining nuclear C2 terminals. Secure, survivable ground terminals at wing command posts that receive emergency action messages, which are then disseminated to bomber, tanker and reconnaissance aircrews for action.

Increment 1 focuses on receiving messages by establishing a secure communication path with satellites utilizing Extremely High Frequency waveforms. The new systems will be compatible with both the existing legacy Milstar satellite system as well as the new Advanced Extremely High Frequency satellites.

"The Air Force is in need of new command and control terminals that allow for communication with the new AEHF satellite constellation," Decker said. "Additionally, the legacy systems are nearing the end of their life cycle and becoming difficult to sustain."

Global ASNT terminals, specifically designed for ground usage to support the nuclear bomber mission, include both fixed and transportable units.

The operational requirement calls for 90 terminals, split between units fielded at fixed locations and transportable units designed to be flown to other sites if the mission dictates. The fixed and transportable units will be identical in design -- with the current contract calling for approximately 45 of each -- and no modification to aircraft will occur as the terminals are not intended to be an airborne system.

The Increment 1 terminal itself is comprised of a dish, antenna and two cabinets, roughly the size of a household refrigerator, which contain complex electronics equipment.

Raytheon was selected through open source competition for Increment 1, therefore there is no guarantee that the Increment 2 and 3 contracts will go to the same contractor; the same open source selection process will be utilized for the remaining phases.

The program office stated that Increment 2 will focus on distribution of emergency action messages to aircrews via pagers, radios and klaxons (loud warning horns). Increment 3 will provide a redundant receiving capability via Low Frequency/Very Low Frequency, otherwise known as LF/VLF, channels. 

Global ASNT, an Air Force Life Cycle Management Center-owned program, anticipates production of the new terminals in fiscal year 2016, but "it is largely predicated on budget," according to Decker.

However, Global ASNT has already taken the necessary steps in the right direction to reach their planned goal -- full operational capability by 2019.