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U.S., coalition nations form Wideband Global Satellite partnership

(U.S. Air Force Graphic/Corey Parrish)

(U.S. Air Force Graphic/Corey Parrish)

WASHINGTON (AFNS) -- Senior defense officials from six countries announced a multilateral partnership in wideband global satellite communication, which is valued at more than $10 billion, Jan. 17 here.

The officials from Canada, Denmark, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, New Zealand and the U.S. held an initial WGS partnership steering committee meeting prior to the announcement.

"This new WGS partnership provides an example of how the U.S. plans to continue exploring opportunities to strengthen our existing cooperative relationship and to build new partnerships," said Heidi Grant, the Deputy Under Secretary of the Air Force for International Affairs. "These activities will bolster our mutual trust, help to achieve further interoperability for our warfighters, and will increase the capabilities and capacity of all partners."

Currently, there are three WGS satellites in orbit, with six additional satellites scheduled for launches from 2012 through 2018, including a ninth satellite that is enabled by the new partnership.

"With this arrangement, each partner's unique level of requirement will be accommodated corresponding to each partner's level of contribution," Grant said. "The United States' contribution to the agreement includes the development, fielding and operation of eight satellites, and the launch services and operations for a ninth satellite."

According to Grant, the multilateral partners contributed $620 million of the approximate $1 billion cost to expand the WGS System with a ninth satellite.

"This is a model of a good way to do business," said Maj. Gen. John Hyten, the director of Space Programs in the Office of the Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition. "From an Air Force acquisition perspective, it improves our ability to acquire the constellation in an efficient manner because it keeps an active production line going, it allows us to achieve efficiencies in the production line (and) it saves us money in the long term by having a very efficient program.

"From an operational perspective for our Air Force operators, it puts (them) on the same system as the coalition partners," he said.

The general explained that Air Force operators receive air tasking orders via wideband communications, and now each partner nation has access to the system and can receive ATOs through that same system.