WASHINGTON — L3Harris Technologies agreed to buy Viasat’s tactical data link business for roughly $1.96 billion, a move officials with the defense and IT company say will extend its reach into the Pentagon’s ambitious communications overhaul known as Joint All-Domain Command and Control.
The prospective acquisition, announced Oct. 3 as financial markets opened, consists of Link 16 Multifunctional Information Distribution System platforms, their associated terminals, which are installed in tens of thousands of U.S. and allied systems worldwide, and space assets.
Link 16 is a secure, jam-resistant and high-speed line of communication used across domains and by international players including NATO.
“This acquisition is part of our strategic effort to ensure operators have access to the most advanced, multi-function Joint All-Domain Command and Control solutions available,” said L3Harris CEO and Chairman Christopher Kubasik. “Viasat’s TDL product line naturally aligns with our proven communication capabilities, and we are excited to partner with our customers and coalition allies as we modernize the Link 16 enterprise.”
JADC2 represents the Defense Department’s vision of a seamlessly connected military, one where information flows across land, air, sea, space and cyber and where coordination with foreign partners is more effective than ever.
The Army, Navy and Air Force have their own contributions to JADC2: Project Convergence, Project Overmatch and the Advanced Battle Management System, respectively.
L3Harris in mid-September was named to the ABMS Digital Infrastructure Consortium alongside four other companies. The league is meant to accelerate development of ABMS, a next-generation command and control method.
“We’ve been spending a lot of time listening to our customers, obviously, about the importance of JADC2 and the necessity to combine and integrate these different domains,” Kubasik told C4ISRNET. “Link 16, I think, is a key part of that, and positions us well for the future.”
Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall considers the realization of ABMS an operational imperative — an effort marked by intense focus and investment, seen as necessary to beat China in a potential conflict.
Kendall earlier this year said the service was working on Link 16 modernization, after lawmakers raised concerns about delays. Language included in a draft of the annual defense bill directed the Government Accountability Office, a watchdog, to review the status of the cryptographic upgrade, identify challenges it still faces and find ways to speed schedules.
“As we’ve gone through the last 20 years of being focused on counterterrorism, counterinsurgency campaigns where there wasn’t a sophisticated threat to our data links, that’s been neglected, quite frankly,” Kendall said April 27.
Radios need to be bought and replaced in order to support the modernization, which takes time, he added.
The pending sale is expected to net Viasat some $1.8 billion, after taxes and other fees. The data link business, part of satellite giant Viasat’s Government Systems division, generated approximately $400 million in yearly revenue. Link 16 accounts for one-third of Viasat’s government business.
L3Harris was the No. 10 largest defense contractor by revenue in the latest Defense News rankings. Viasat was No. 73.
Kubasik told C4ISRNET the deal, expected to close in the first half of 2023, will drive competitiveness among the defense industrial base.
“We’re trying to become the sixth prime, to allow for more competition. I think for us, to continue to grow and be a player with the Department of Defense, we have to focus on organic growth and inorganic growth,” Kubasik said. “I believe this acquisition creates competition, and I think additional acquisitions will create more competition.”
Colin Demarest is a reporter at C4ISRNET, where he covers military networks, cyber and IT. Colin previously covered the Department of Energy and its National Nuclear Security Administration — namely Cold War cleanup and nuclear weapons development — for a daily newspaper in South Carolina. Colin is also an award-winning photographer.