TSAT satellites will represent a “huge step” in capability with their ability to provide wideband and secure communications down to the squad level of ground troops, Gary Payton, the Air Force’s point man for space issues, said last week. Tying dismounted soldiers to the US military’s information-sharing networks is “absolutely pivotal” to future warfighting concepts, he said during a Jan. 16 telecon with reporters (see above). In fact, Defense Department wargames have shown that the connectivity afforded by TSAT would allow ground troops to execute missions in about 70 percent less time than it takes today, which also equates to fewer friendly casualties, he said. Plans are to field an initial tranche of four TSAT Block 10 satellites, plus one spare. First launch is expected in 2019, with each successive placement in orbit about a year apart. Payton said the Air Force will let the warfighter drive the schedule for when improvements, such as laser communication links, are incorporated onto later blocks.
The Pentagon awarded a contract worth over $2 billion for the next batch of F-35 engines to Pratt & Whitney on June 5. The deal for Lot 17 F135 engines, totaling $2.02 billion, is expected to be completed by December 2025.