The 4th Space Operations Squadron installed a new Family of Advanced Beyond-Line-of-Sight Terminal on one of their operations floors June 22 – 27 at Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado.
The FAB-T is a terminal used to connect, command and control protected military satellite communications satellites. These new systems are more efficient and easier to operate than what was previously being used. The new terminal was installed by Raytheon Technologies and the 4th SOPS Protected SATCOM maintenance flight will monitor it in case any anomalies arise.
“The terminals we were using before couldn’t control some of the more advanced functions on our systems,” said Staff Sgt. Edgar Diamond, 4th SOPS protected MILSATCOM maintenance flight noncommissioned officer in charge. “Our old system was not user friendly in the least. If you clicked the wrong thing it would log you off the system. It was a pain and couldn’t be maintained by Airmen. The FAB-T is more efficient and is going to be entirely Airman maintained.”
The MILSATCOM maintenance flight likes to joke that with the new terminal, it’s “push button, get satellite,” because of the simplified operations the FAB-T brings, and the reality of the matter is it’s only a little more complex than what they joke.
“To log onto a satellite with our old system was like a 20-page checklist,” Diamond said. “It took 30-45 minutes just to get online. With the FAB-T, it’s a half-page checklist and [you can be] online in maybe 10-15 minutes.”
The new terminal will also decrease the required number of Airmen who have to work ‘crew.’ Crew is a rotation that Airmen within a space operations unit must work as the system needs to be run 24/7. This can entail day shifts and shifts where Airmen work through the night.
“We used to have to have a dedicated person on crew to ‘babysit’ our old system, but now we can take the operators and train them to also maintain the FAB-T,” Diamond said.
Additionally, the 4th SOPS maintenance flight will have Airmen on-call 24/7 to respond to any maintenance inquiry an operator may have with the new system. Saving the unit time and resources.
“It’s important we continually advance our technologies because if we let it stay where it was, we can have issues with old equipment and systems, where it can become very difficult to maintain, because it’s so outdated and spare parts are no longer produced. As technology advances, some of those older systems really show their age. You can tell when a system was made in 1990.”
The installation of the new terminal was transparent to operations – meaning there was no negative impact on the 4th SOPS mission.
“The FAB-T is smaller, faster and easier to repair than what we were previously using,” Diamond said. “It’ll significantly cut down on down time involved with maintenance. With the FAB-T, it takes only 30 minutes to repair, whereas our old system took all day.”
Another benefit of the FAB-T terminal is that the antenna length is longer, creating a more resilient machine.
“Having this new terminal installed makes my job easier and increases unit efficiency,” said Airman 1st Class Brice Brewington, 4th SOPS extremely high frequency satellite systems operator. “The new terminal helps improve our signal and the robustness of it so we have better connectivity in inclement weather, such as when it’s raining.”
The unit plans to install more FAB-T terminals in the future to increase efficiency in its mobile mission.
The 4th SOPS mobile missions include contingency and endurance missions. The contingency mission is put in place so that if the crosslinks (antennas that allow satellites to communicate with each other from space instead of having to send information to the ground and back up) on a satellite went down, the unit could go to a location on Earth in sight of the orbit of the satellite and repair it.
The endurance mission is if a global conflict, such as a nuclear war were to erupt, the unit could go to an undisclosed location and operate their mission safely.
By Airman 1st Class Jonathan Whitely, 50th Space Wing Public Affairs