The US Air Force (USAF) has awarded a contract to Hughes Network Systems to devise concepts for its future protected military satellite communications (MILSATCOM) system development programme.

Awarded by the Air Force Military Satellite Communications System Directorate, the undisclosed contract covers the development of MILSATCOM management concepts and provides technical assistance in the form of future protected tactical satellite waveforms.

Hughes Defense and Intelligence Systems Division vice president and general manager Rick Lober said the soldiers require command and control and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance information to operate technologically advanced defence systems during combat.

"A cost-effective and efficient approach to protected tactical communications is critical, especially as our potential adversaries’ ability to disrupt communications for those systems continues to increase," Lober added.

Hughes will be responsible for the production of design concepts and the demonstration of the mature satellite technologies.

In addition to expanding the air force’s communications capabilities, the proposed new waveform designs are also expected to generate significant cost savings for the service.

The contract is anticipated to simplify options development, while also lowering acquisition risk for an affordable architecture, to provide US and allied forces with protected satellite communications in future hostile environments.

The MILSATCOM programme aims to develop practical new architectures and technologies to help increase protection of the US Department of Defense’s (DoD) high security communications systems worldwide.

Other contract awardees include L-3 Communications, Space Systems/Loral, Raytheon, Northrop Grumman, Boeing, General Dynamics, Space Micro, Hughes Design Group, Lockheed Martin, Harris, ViaSat, Orbital Sciences and Arkham Technology.