Navy seen fighting in satellite-denied conflicts

Navy plans to operate without its most important IT assets

The Navy must learn to operate in future warfighting environments where satellite communications and services such as global positioning systems may be limited or denied, a top Navy official has said.

This new way of operating will be difficult because the service developed its communications systems to provide its deployed ships with high bandwidth satellite links. “In the past we’ve always had an insatiable demand for more bandwidth,” Vincent Squitieri, program manager for the Communications Program Office at the Navy’s Program Executive Office for Command, Control, Communications, Computers and Intelligence, said at the MILCOM conference in Baltimore, Md., on Nov. 9.

Future adversaries will most likely target U.S. military space assets to deny enough command and control functionality to achieve their objectives, he said.

The Navy is thinking about how to conduct future operations in a satellite-denied environment, he said, and one consideration is waging warfare at much smaller bandwidth levels. To achieve this, the service is looking at the architecture of its Consolidated Afloat Network Enterprise Services program to understand how to more effectively conduct command and control under those circumstances, Squitieri said.

Adaptive coding, which allows a ship or facility to vary how much bandwidth it uses depending on the communications environment, is one way to do this, Squitieri said. The Navy is also experimenting with running its battle groups without satellite communications by setting up inter-group and intra-group communications nodes, he said.

Also, the service must take a systems approach to understand its vulnerabilities and advantages, said Starnes Walker, CTO for U.S. Fleet Cyber Command/10th Fleet. The service needs to capitalize on new technologies across its research and development enterprise, he added.

When operating with limited bandwidth, available spectrum must be partitioned in an educated way, Walker said. He said that even with limited data, the Navy will still have huge amounts of data available through sensors and other systems. This information must be sampled in an intelligent way to provide commanders with the best data available, he said.

Cyber warfare will only grow with time, until it is part of the standard operating practice for the Navy, Walker said. “In the battles to come, the first shots across the bow will most likely be cyber,” he said, adding that cyberspace is vital because it also makes kinetic attacks more effective.

In addition, the service must develop capabilities in flexible systems that can be rapidly modified to suite operational needs, Walker said. This will change the current Navy cyber operating mode that is reactive, to a more predictive systems approach, he explained. The service must focus on how to use cyber capabilities to make the fleet components more capable, he said.

About the Author

Henry Kenyon is a contributing writer for Defense Systems.

Defense Systems Update

Sign up for our newsletter.

Terms and Privacy Policy consent

I agree to this site's Privacy Policy.