The Air Force and L3Harris Technologies [LHX] have begun to install satellite communication upgrades for the service’s presidential and executive aircraft, and expect to complete fielding in August, about 16 months ahead of schedule.
The service’s Lifecycle Management Center’s presidential and executive airlift directorate completed the first upgrade June 12 on a C-40B aircraft used for VIP transportation, according to a June 23 release. The directorate is responsible for the acquisition and life cycle management of the “Air Force One” VC-25A fleet, and the VC-25B future presidential aircraft development program, along with executive transport aircraft including the C-12, C-21, C-32, C-37, C-40 and E-4.
The effort involves upgrading each aircraft’s internal SATCOM system with a new system referred to as the M3 Modem, that is described as being future-proof and capable of providing a 10-fold increase in data speeds, and doubled geographical coverage to extend across the Atlantic Ocean and Europe. The M3’s smaller footprint also replaces three separate components.
The service and L3Harris implemented the strategy, from concept to first aircraft installation, in eight months, according to the release. “This defines acquisition at its best,” said Brig. Gen. Ryan Britton, Program Executive Officer for the directorate in the release. “The team is delivering a cutting-edge capability to support our national leadership over a year ahead of schedule. They have set the standard.”
Each upgrade takes five days, and is being performed along with planned maintenance to avoid impacted aircraft availability, the service said.