Winning TSAT Contract Key To Maintaining Market Niche
A new generation of military
communications satellites, called "TSAT," could have as big an
effect on communications as global positioning satellites had on
navigation, and winning the contract for the project is crucial to
maintaining Boeing’s position as a leading satellite
Boeing is bidding against the team of Lockheed Martin and
Northrop Grumman for new "transformational" satellites in a
contract potentially worth more than $15 billion.
Loren Thompson, a defense policy analyst with the Arlington VA
Lexington Institute said, "Boeing has its back to the wall. If it
doesn’t win the contract, it will have real difficulty
sustaining the work force" at Boeing’s satellite-making
complex in El Segundo.
With declining demand for commercial satellites adding to its
woes, Boeing "really needs to win TSAT to keep its design and
engineering staff intact," Thompson said.
With an initial value of $6.6 billion, the contract is a "must
win" for Boeing, which has been hurt by sagging sales of commercial
satellites and production problems, the Los Angeles Times said.
With the launch of the first of five satellites slated for 2018,
TSAT would enable Pentagon strategists, field commanders, and
soldiers on a battlefield to view the same video images of an
enemy, taken and transmitted by an unmanned spy plane.
Comparisons liken Milstar, the current military satellite
communications system, to a dial-up modem; TSAT with 100 times more
bandwidth, is a high-speed Internet in the sky, complete with
sophisticated anti-jamming and security technology.
A decade ago, Boeing was the world’s largest satellite
maker, the Times said. Its work force of nearly 10,000 employees at
its complex near Los Angeles International Airport has dwindled to
about half that number, due to slumping sales of commercial
satellites and lost contracts.
Last year, the Pentagon took a portion of a secret,
multibillion-dollar spy satellite program from Boeing and awarded
it to Lockheed. This year, Lockheed beat out Boeing for a $3.5
billion US Air Force contract to build a new generation of global
Potentially affecting the nation’s future military space
programs, the loss could "weaken Boeing’s ability to compete
and leave Lockheed as the dominant developer of military satellites
for the next decade or more," analysts and industry officials
"I can’t think of anything bigger" in terms of a satellite
competition, said Craig Cooning, general manager of Boeing’s
Space and Intelligence Systems unit. "If we don’t win, it
will be a tougher situation for us."
The Boeing TSAT team includes Raytheon, Ball Aerospace, General
Dynamics, Cisco Systems, IBM, L-3 Communications, BBN Technologies,
Hughes Network Systems, Lucent Technologies, Harris, EMS
Technologies, and Alpha Informatics.