An industry team consisting of Northrop Grumman , Lockheed Martin and TeleCommunication Systems (TCS) team has completed the critical design review (CDR) for the information assurance elements of the low-cost terminal (LCT).

LCT is an initiative to develop an affordable terminal for protected extremely high frequency (EHF) communications by using current commercial technologies and designs to minimise costs.

Specifically, the terminal will offer protected communications to highly mobile, tactical military forces through the Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF) satellite system at a cost significantly lower than currently deployed protected communication terminals.

"Developing this capability is critical because AEHF is the only available alternative that satisfies the compelling warfighting need for assured tactical communications in contested and anti-access/area denial environments."

The completion of the CDR now enables the team to build hardware and software for the information assurance element or end cryptographic unit.

Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems communication systems vice-president Tim Frei said: "This milestone brings the LCT a major step closer to completion so assured connectivity can be affordably extended to tactical users.

"Developing this capability is critical because AEHF is the only available alternative that satisfies the compelling warfighting need for assured tactical communications in contested and anti-access/area denial environments."

TCS Government Solutions Group president Mike Bristol said: "We recognise that the DOD has a significant unmet need for the type of protected communications that only the Milstar and AEHF satellites can provide.

"The air, land and mobile variants of the LCT satisfy that need with a very cost-efficient solution."

The team has fully integrated and tested an early prototype LCT designed for protected comm-on-the-move applications with the AEHF payload engineering model, confirming its interoperability with the AEHF anti-jam satellite systems.

However, trials of the terminal with an AEHF satellite are planned by the end of this year, with full certification expected in 2016.

Lockheed Martin Protected Communications Systems vice-president and AEHF programme manager Mark Calassa said: "The call for innovation and productivity from the Defense Department’s Better Buying Power initiative is driving the LCT development team."

Also supported by a commercial subcontractor team, the LCS development has so far been an industry-funded effort, with contractor team jointly financing the development and contractor portion of LCT certification.