JULY 20, 2015, HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. (AFNS) – A key system that helps ensure the global free flow of information throughout all military branches and other government agencies is undergoing a major overhaul.
Led by a team at Hanscom Air Force Base, the Air Force Wideband Enterprise Terminal system is receiving its third largest upgrade to date, known as the Modernization of Enterprise Terminals.
Using a variety of satellites to transfer both classified and unclassified data, these terminals provide the backbone for the Global Information Grid and keep Airmen connected across the globe. Structurally, AFWET are heavy- or medium-fixed Wideband Global, Defense Satellite Communication System terminals comprised of a radome, electronics and a 38-to 60-foot dish antenna.
Recently, the program team completed the first successful MET kit installation for the AFWET system located at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, signifying the modernization effort is well on its way.
“AFWET is a system of systems, and the MET upgrade modernizes approximately 60 percent of the terminals,” said Shawn Patterson, the AFWET program manager, who has spent more than a decade working on the program. “We are steadily ramping up and expect to have another three installations completed shortly.”
The Ramstein AB terminal is the first of 32 systems the Air Force is responsible for updating; however, MET is a Defense Department initiative, which will impact an estimated 90 fielded joint terminals altogether.
Since the AFWET program team performs implementation and integration organically — meaning without the use of prime contractors — they take advantage of partnering with other services to reduce cost.
For example, the Air Force was able to benefit from research and development performed by other military branches. In addition, the Hanscom AFB program team utilizes a government off-the-shelf approach, which helps maintain a joint standard, promotes a standardized software baseline and results in lower prices on joint terminal purchases with the Army.
“Savings have been quite substantial — in the millions of dollars,” Patterson said. “Since this is an enterprise system, and not specifically for Airmen only, capability as well as cost falls to all of the services.”
The AFWET program team’s primary focus is the MET modernization; however, they are also responsible for the overall life cycle of the terminals, which includes modernizing and sustaining the remaining 40 percent of the terminals.
“We are the product support integrator,” Patterson said. “Addressing other sustainment issues outside the MET modernization is all part of keeping the system alive.”
There are 25 targeted sustainment actions currently underway with an additional 15-25 slated for next fiscal year, according to the AFWET program manager.
Some of the sustainment actions include reliability and software modifications, technical refreshes on alarm systems, modem upgrades and updating fiber communications, terrestrial equipment and routers.
With each completed MET and sustainment effort, the life span of the AFWET system is extended.
“The successful installation of the first MET upgrade marks an important milestone in the progress of the AFWET program,” said Col. Todd Krueger, the Space, Aerial and Nuclear Networks Division senior materiel leader. “Mr. Patterson and his team have done an outstanding job of preparing for worldwide installation and support while focusing on affordability. They are delivering critical global connectivity for the joint warfighter.”