AFWET system

The US Air Force (USAF) is performing a third upgrade on the Air Force Wideband Enterprise Terminal (AFWET) system, which ensures the global free flow of information across all military branches and other government agencies.

The AFWET are heavy or medium-fixed Wideband Global, Defence Satellite Communication System terminals featuring a radome, electronics and a 38ft x 60ft dish antenna. They provide the backbone for the Global Information Grid and keep airmen connected worldwide.

As part of the upgrade, known as the Modernisation of Enterprise Terminals, the Hanscom Air Force Base team completed the first successful MET kit installation for the AFWET system located at Ramstein Air Base (AB), Germany.

While the Ramstein AB terminal is the first of 32 systems the air force is responsible for updating, the Defence Department initiative MET will impact an estimated 90 fielded joint terminals altogether.

AFWET programme manager Shawn Patterson said: "AFWET is a system of systems, and the MET upgrade modernises approximately 60% of the terminals.

"We are steadily ramping up and expect to have another three installations completed shortly."

As the upgrade is being executed without the use of prime contractors, the AFWET programme team is working in collaboration with other military branches to reduce cost.

In addition, the team uses a government off-the-shelf approach that helps maintain a joint standard, promotes a standardised 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: "Savings have been quite substantial, in the millions of dollars. Since this is an enterprise system, and not specifically for Airmen only, capability, as well as cost falls to all of the services."

Apart from the MET modernisation, the team is also responsible for the overall life cycle of the terminals, which includes modernising and sustaining the remaining 40% of the terminals.

Approximately 25 targeted sustainment actions are currently underway with an additional 15 to 25 slated for 2016.

Some of the sustainment actions include reliability and software modifications, technical refreshes on alarm systems, as well as modem upgrades and updating fibre communications, terrestrial equipment and routers.

Image: An Air Force Wideband Enterprise Terminal stands poised under a protective covering on Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska, US. Photo: courtesy of US Air Force photo/Josh Plueger.