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Military Satellite Project Hits Additional Snags

Lockheed Contract Already Over Budget

By Renae Merle
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, December 22, 2004; Page E05

The Air Force said yesterday that a Lockheed Martin Corp. military satellite program has fallen another year behind schedule and that the cost of the program will grow by at least $800 million.

The Advanced Extremely High Frequency satellite system, known as Advanced EHF, was designed to replace the military's Cold War-era Milstar satellites, providing 10 times as much bandwidth to transmit voice, data and video between soldiers and command centers.

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But from the beginning the program has encountered technical problems and delays. The latest difficulties were caused by the slow delivery to Lockheed of government-furnished equipment to encrypt satellite transmissions, the Air Force said in a written statement. The program also required more testing and the replacement of electronic equipment, according to the statement.

The cost of the $5.3 billion program is expected to increase about $800 million because of the difficulties, said Alicia Garges, a spokeswoman at the space and missile center at Los Angeles Air Force Base. But an Air Force statement said the increase would be 20 percent, or $1 billion. It was not known late yesterday why the figures differed. The program had been expected to cost about $2.6 billion.

The launch of the first of three satellites in the system will be postponed until 2008, a year behind schedule.

A Lockheed statement did not address the delays but said the company is "completely dedicated to achieving mission success on this critical program to ensure this much-needed communications infrastructure is delivered expeditiously to our troops and allies worldwide."

The program's problems are not a surprise, since developing a satellite system is "a hard thing to do," said John E. Pike, director of GlobalSecurity.org. "There was an enormous amount of unrealism built into aerospace contracting in the late 90s" when the Air Force launched the program.

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