WASHINGTON – The U.S. Air Force has awarded Viasat a contract worth as much as $90 million to provide special warfare airmen new handheld radios, according to a Jan. 21 press release from the company.

Under an indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract, which runs through 2023, Viasat will provide its Battlefield Awareness Targeting System-Dismounted (BATS-D) handheld Link 16 radios, which give warfighters access to real-time, secure and reliable communication for enhanced close air support communications. Viasat will also provide operator training and maintenance. The contract came from the U.S. Air Force Life Cycle Management Center.

"We continue to see strong demand for [the radios’] use across multiple military branches, and among coalition partners as it has the proven ability to significantly enhance situational awareness, improve mission coordination and accelerate decision timelines in a multi-domain battlespace,” said Ken Peterman, president of government systems at Viasat.

Link 16 is a tactical data exchange network that provides a picture of where friendly and enemy forces are located, allowing the military to share a common understanding of the battlefield. Military leaders rely on Link 16 as a critical tool in identifying friend from foe in the heat of a battle.

The radio features direct voice communications with other Link 16 users, which “dramatically shortens the kill chain and decreases the risk of fratricide,” according to Viasat.

In 2019, Viasat announced it had shipped its 1,000th BATS-D radio. To date, Over 2,000 BATS-D radios have been shipped to U.S. warfighters worldwide, according to the release.

In 2018, the National Security Agency authorized Viasat to immediately open the use of the radios to members of Five Eyes, an intelligence alliance comprising Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States.

The training and maintenance will take place in Carlsbad, California through December 31, 2023, according to the Department of Defense.

Chiara Vercellone is a reporter interning with Defense News, C4ISRNET and Fifth Domain Cyber

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