The US Air Force (USAF) has awarded a contract to Boeing for the production and launch of the eighth and ninth wideband global SATCOM (WGS) satellites, in a move to expand WGS constellation and provide communications capability to warfighters.

The USAF exercised options, part of a $1.09bn contract modification awarded in September 2011, have a combined value of $673m.

Boeing Space & Intelligence Systems vice president and general manager Craig Cooning said: "This will give warfighters the ability to ensure vital communication links are available at all times, even in the event that one or more critical nodes are disabled."

The two new satellites will join four other satellites of the Block II series, which enable faster relay of airborne intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance imagery at data rates three times greater than Block I satellites.

Built on the Boeing 702HP platform, WGS satellites feature efficient xenon-ion propulsion, deployable thermal radiators and advanced triple-junction gallium-arsenide solar arrays that enable high-capacity, flexible payloads.

The unique flexibility of the WGS communications payload allows it to interconnect terminals operating in different frequency bands and reposition coverage beams as per mission requirements.

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USAF’s WGS constellation also supports missions which include to and fro of tactical communications between ground forces.
The WGS-9 will be funded through an international cooperative agreement between the USAF and Canada, Denmark, the Netherlands, Luxembourg and New Zealand. The WGS-6 was funded by the Australian Government in 2008. Cooning added that international participation in WGS provides immediate access to worldwide services as well as improved communications interoperability between allied forces.