The U.S. Space Force’s Protected Anti-jam Tactical Satellite Communications (PATS) program is a marquee science, technology and innovation (ST&I) effort for the Space Force Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC) at Los Angeles AFB, Calf.
“A great example of this unified approach on ST&I is the PATS program–our next generation tactical SATCOM family of systems meant to provide worldwide beyond line of sight anti-jam communications to warfighters in both benign and contested environments,” Lt. Gen. John “JT” Thompson, the SMC commander, said during the Air Force Association (AFA) virtual Aerospace Warfare Symposium (vAWS). “The SMC PATS team is utilizing multiple contracting approaches for different elements of the program so we can achieve speed and flexibility and put into operations the most innovative approaches as quickly as possible.”
Last February and March, SMC awarded prototype contracts for Protected Tactical Satellites (PTS)–the satellite portion of PATS–to Lockheed Martin [LMT], Boeing [BA], and Northrop Grumman [NOC]. Also last year, SMC awarded Raytheon [RTN] and L3Harris [LHX] contracts to develop Protected Tactical Waveform (PTW) capable modems under a $500 million-ceiling, Indefinite-Delivery/Indefinite-Quantity (IDIQ) contract.
In 2019, Boeing [BA] awarded a subcontract to Hughes Network Systems for the ground station part of PATS–the Protected Tactical Enterprise Service (PTES). Work is expected to run through 2025 (Defense Daily, Apr. 10, 2019). The PTES program aims to provide tactical warfighters with a joint ground platform designed to deliver protected communications services through the Boeing Wideband Global Satcom (WGS) satellite constellation, commercial satellites and in the future, the Space Force PTS birds running PTW, an advanced beam-forming technology to provide anti-jam capabilities in electromagnetically contested spectra.
The PATS program has used rapid prototyping/middle-tier acquisition authority, granted by Congress in Section 804 of the fiscal 2016 National Defense Authorization Act. PATS has also benefited from collaboration with the Space Enterprise Consortium (SpEC), an incubator for space innovation efforts through rapid prototyping. Funded through DoD Other Transaction Authority (OTA), SpEC has more than 400 members.
Section 804 and SpeC have enabled competitive protoyping for PATS “early in the program,” Thompson said. “It’s a protoyping-centric approach that builds out the best solutions, while getting capabilities on-orbit years ahead of traditional contracting and development timelines.”
Last September, SMC participated in the U.S. Air Force’s second on-ramp test of the Advanced Battle Management System (ABMS) (Defense Daily, Sept. 4, 2020).
“In that demo, the PATS team successfully demonstrated the tactical utility of that Protected Tactical Waveform to communicate in the presence of significant jamming,” Thompson said during AFA vAWS.