Kehler Wants TSAT Call by End of Year

Despite cost growth in one of the Air Force’s major satellite programs, Air Force Space Command’s Gen. Robert Kehler expressed optimism that an award for the Transformational Satellite Communications Program (TSAT) will be decided by the end of the year. Last week, AFSPC informed Congress that the Advanced Extremely High Frequency satellite program had experienced a 25 percent growth in cost and will now require recertification under the Nunn-McCurdy rule. That cost growth has a great deal to do with the Congressionally mandated fourth satellite, Kehler said, but other developmental factors influenced the growth as well. That said, he expressed confidence that AEHF is on the right track and that TSAT is the right program to follow it. “Our position is to go forward with the program of record,” Kehler said of TSAT, adding that AFSPC has given parameters to competitors Boeing and Lockheed. He added, “We would like to get to a source selection this fall,” which would coincide with the beginning of a systems development and demonstration phase. “I think we’ve bought down enough risk, particularly technical risk,” he said. Kehler is concerned about needs of the joint force and the potential for an “unacceptable gap” between the last AEHF and the first TSAT. One of the most in-demand capabilities on the battlefield now and for the foreseeable future is protected communications for ground forces on the move. Making that a reality without TSAT may not be possible, he added. Despite the program’s cost challenges, Kehler predicted that the first AEHF satellite would be launched within the next year and that the first TSAT would follow by 2018.