by Alex Scroxton
Broadband services supplier ViaSat is to supply 90 of its Link 16 Small Tactical Terminals (STTs) to Boeing as it outfits a number of AH-64E Apache Guardian Attack helicopters for the US military.
The latest generation of a line that dates back to the 1980s, the AH-64E is one of the world’s most advanced multi-role combat helicopters and – besides the US – serves in the militaries of a number of other countries worldwide, including India, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia and South Korea.
The full-rate contract covers production through to 2018. It will provide real-time combat communications and network interoperability over a two-channel, software-defined STT.
ViaSat said its terminals provided a rugged, compact and lightweight system for aircraft to remain in contact with one another and other friendly forces, at all times, switching their connections as needed to ensure constant situational awareness.
ViaSat’s platform has also been selected by the US government as a long-term radio system for Link 16 and soldier radio waveform capabilities for AH-64Es. Washington expects to save around $250m over the lifetime of the programme.
“The AH-64E Apache award is a significant milestone for ViaSat as it enables us to deliver critical communications capabilities for army aviation, while providing a logistically common system for Link 16 needs across multiple applications,” said Ken Peterman, senior vice-president and general manager, Government Systems Division at ViaSat.
“Our strategy in the defence market has been to recognise critical warfighter needs and apply our commercial model to develop inventive systems with availability years ahead of – and at a fraction of the total cost of – traditional Department of Defence [DoD] programmes of record.
“We see this AH-64E Apache award as validation for our strategy and a key first step in laying the groundwork for future terminals that will provide key operational data to warfighters, but in form factors previously considered unimaginable.”
ViaSat is no stranger to military engagements. In 2015, it won a £3.8m contract from General Dynamics UK to equip 589 Scout Specialist Vehicles(SVs) with an on-board encrypted data storage system.
It is also working with Boeing in the civilian aviation sector, having recently signed an agreement to supply its Ka-band airborne satellite hardware as a factory option on Boeing aircraft prior to delivery, which means aircraft will come off the production line with broadband connectivity ready for immediate service.