AEHF Satellite System

Product Type:

Communications Satellite System

Using Service (US):

Air Force (USAF)

Program Status:

In Production

Prime Contractors:

Lockheed Martin Corporation

Specifications DoD Spending FY2015 Budget

AEHF Satellite

About the AEHF Program:

The Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF) satellites system is the next generation global, secure, survivable communication system for all services of the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD). The AEHF satellite system will be a constellation of communications satellites in geosynchronous orbit that will replenish the existing MILSTAR satellite system at a much higher capacity and data rate capability. One AEHF satellite will provide greater total capacity than the entire MILSTAR constellation currently on orbit. The MILSTAR satellite program currently has a four-satellite operational constellation. The last MILSTAR satellite was launched in April 2003.

AEHF adds new higher data rate modes to the low data rate and medium data rate modes of MILSTAR satellites. The higher data rate modes will provide data rates up to 8.2 million bits of data per second (Mbps) to future Advanced EHF Army terminals. AEHF satellites will provide 10 times greater total capacity and offer channel data rates 6 times higher than the MILSTAR communications satellites. The higher data rates enables transmission of tactical military communications such as real-time video, battlefield maps, and targeting data.

 - 24-hour low, medium, and high data rate satellite connectivity from 65 N    to 65 S latitude worldwide
 - 8 full time spot beam antennas @ 75 bps to 8.192 Mbps data rate
 - 24 time shared spot beam antennas @ 75 bps to 2.048 Mbps data rate
 - 2 crosslink antennas per satellite (10 Mbps)
 - Up to 160 cellular coverages (75 bps to 8.192 Mbps)
 - X-band frequency data rate capable

The fully operational AEHF constellation will consist of four crosslinked satellites providing coverage of the Earth from 65 degrees north latitude to 65 degrees south. The satellites will provide more data throughput and coverage flexibility to military operations than ever before.

In November 2001, the U.S. Air Force awarded Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman a $2.7 billion contract to begin the System Development and Demonstration (SDD) phase of the AEHF Program. Lockheed Martin serves as the developer of the ground segment, satellite bus provider, space vehicle integrator and overall systems integrator and prime contractor. This role builds on Lockheed Martin's experience on MILSTAR and DSCS. Northrop Grumman will provide the payload and associated components, including digital processor and RF equipment.

On December 28, 2012, the U.S. Air Force awarded Lockheed Martin a $1.94 billion contract to deliver the fifth and sixth AEHF satellites (SV-5 and SV-6).

The AEHF is a collaborative program that also includes resources for Canada, the United Kingdom, and the Netherlands. All four partner nations are now using the AEHF.

The first AEHF satellite was launched on August 14, 2010 (four years behind schedule) aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V EELV launch vehicle. AEHF SV-1 reached geosynchronous orbit on October 24, 2011 and completed on-orbit testing on February 29, 2012. On February 27, 2012, Lockheed Martin delivered the second AEHF satellite to Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, where it was launched on May 4, 2012 and activated on August 17, 2012. On-orbit testing of AEHF SV-2 was completed on November 14, 2012. The third AEHF satellite (SV-3) was delivered in July 2013 and launched on September 18, 2013. AEHF SV-4 is projected for launch in FY 2017.


The cost of the third satellite, SV-3, is $842 million while SV-4 ended up costing $1,704 million. SV-3 production followed one year after SV-2. SV-4 production began four years after SV-3 resulting in a stand-alone production, parts obsolescence, supply chain restart, loss of learning, refurbishment of test equipment, and increased integration risk. SV-4 unit cost is based on $307 million in advance procurement funds and $1,396 million contract target value for production and associated incentive fees.

Total Cost - Life of Program (LoP):

The total procurement cost of the AEHF program is $5.70 billion (estimated by the DoD) + $7.46 billion in research and development (RDT&E) funds, which means the total estimated program cost is $13.16 billion (numbers are aggregated annual funds spent over the life of the program and no price/inflation adjustment was made).


The AEHF constellation will provide survivable, anti-jam, worldwide secure communications for strategic and tactical users.

FY 2014 DoD Program:

Continues incremental funding for procurement of space vehicles AEHF-5 and AEHF-6 and continues the Space Modernization Initiative (SMI) RDT&E activities. SMI will reduce future production costs by improving insertion of new technologies to replace obsolete parts and materials.

FY 2015 DoD Program:

Continues funding for procurement of space vehicles AEHF-5 and AEHF-6 and continues the Space Modernization Initiative (SMI) development activities to reduce future production costs by improving insertion of new technologies to replace obsolete parts and materials.

For more information, click to see the Complete FY 2015 DoD AEHF Budget.

Source: U.S. Department of Defense (DoD), Lockheed Martin Corp.,
and Northrop Grumman Corp.

Last Update: October 28, 2014.

By Joakim Kasper Oestergaard Balle /// (

External Resources:

Lockheed Martin: Advanced EHF

Northrop Grumman: Advanced EHF

YouTube: Advanced EHF | YouTube Videos

Fact Sheet: Northrop Grumman | AEHF

Total AEHF Program Cost:

 $13.16 billion  ($5.70B procurement + $7.46B RDT&E)

AEHF Procurement Objective:

  6 satellites

AEHF U.S. Defense Budget Charts:

DoD Spending on the AEHF Satellite System in FY 2011, FY 2012, FY 2013, FY 2014 and FY 2015
DoD Purchases of AEHF Satellites in FY 2011, FY 2012, FY 2013, FY 2014 and FY 2015
Defense Budget Data

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DoD Spending, Procurement and RDT&E: FY 2011/12/13 + Budget for FYs 2014 + 2015

DoD Defense Spending, Procurement, Modifications, Spares, and RDT&E for the Advanced EHF Program

Download Official U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) Budget Data:

Purchases of AEHF Satellites and Associated Equipment (USAF)

Specifications: AEHF Satellite System

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Primary Function: Constellation of Communications Satellites
Prime Contractor: Lockheed Martin
Frequency: EHF (44 GHz) uplink; SHF (20 GHz) downlink
Data Rates: 75 bps to 8.192 Mbps
System Security: Terminal-to-terminal COMSEC TRANSEC governed frequency hopping
Interoperability: MILSTAR LDR, MDR & XDR modulation modes
Antenna Coverages: 1 earth coverage beam; 4 agile beams;
24 time-shared spot beams; 2 nulling spot beams; 6 dwelling spot beams
Crosslinks: 2 per satellite (each bi-directional). Compatible with MILSTAR & AEHF requirements ~60 Mbps
Price/Unit Cost: SV-4: $1,704 million
Deployed: First AEHF Satellite launched on August 14, 2010

Defense Program

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