Satellite operators stand ready to assist DOD
- By David Helfgott
- Sep 13, 2012
While the U.S. military presence in Iraq and Afghanistan may be winding down, the Pentagon has become engaged in a fierce budget battle that could last for many years. Spending-reduction efforts will focus mostly on large weapons systems and troop levels, but military planners also are looking for ways to save money on critical communications, including those carried over satellites.
As the Defense Department transforms its own satellite communication systems, it must respond to growing global demand based on successful implementation of the net-centric warfare doctrine, growing use of expeditionary forces that require mobile connectivity, and increasing dependence on intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) platforms. Based on these trends, military users, both in a theater of operations and training at home to prepare for deployment, will continue to demand more satellite capability and capacity for mobile and high-bandwidth applications. Commercial satellite operators and service providers, like Inmarsat Government, which are aligned to complement existing military satellite communications (MILSATCOM) programs and capability, are equipped to provide needed services in the most effective and cost-efficient way.
Beyond meeting command, control, communications requirements, the DOD continues to be challenged by bandwidth demand that exponentially increases with each new advance in sensor capability. New systems for ISR platforms, as an example, will require data throughput rates of 10 to 16 megabits per second. High-altitude systems, such as Global Hawk, will need faster data rates, as high as 138 Mbs. The total information demands of these platforms could reach up to 50 terabytes, as the warfighter and military analysts will come to depend on ISR with advanced sensor suites consisting of high-definition cameras, wide-area surveillance technology and simultaneous video feeds. Even with architecture that includes hybrid fiber-satellite designs, these demands will continuously constrain available government satellite networks.
Budgetary and operational challenges have created opportunities for commercial satellite providers to deliver innovation to help the DOD expand and strengthen its worldwide high-throughput communication networks. This includes support for the future government space architecture, specifically the expanding capability of the Wideband Global SATCOM (WGS) system. The deployment of WGS has driven the proliferation of government-certified terminals in both X- and Ka-band frequencies.
Inmarsat noted this trend several years ago and now is building its own complementary Ka-band satellite system, Global Xpress, to support the operational requirements of these users. This commercial Ka-band frequency and the military Ka-band frequency are adjacent to one another, so users will require only minor terminal adjustments to augment WGS’ military capacity with this commercial capability. To further supplement WGS, Global Xpress will include a robust, high-capacity military Ka-band overlay to ensure military users have the ability to support dynamic and unplanned missions with en route connectivity everywhere. Another innovative feature of the Global Xpress system is network and bandwidth efficiency, a requirement that is critical to government users in this budget-constrained environment.
This type of industry innovation has been helping meet DOD requirements for several years. Inmarsat Government is leading the way with end-to-end capabilities in mission-critical communications, including L-band mobile satellite services, secure hybrid fiber-fixed satellite services and value-added support. The company has been investing in new platforms and capabilities, as well as improvements to its full spectrum of products and services. This includes mobile satellite services being enhanced to double data rates using existing terminals and without expensive hardware upgrades. In addition, hybrid L- and Ka-band service will meet expanding demand and enable secure, robust communications in support of military and national security missions in the next field of combat or during the next natural disaster.
These investments by Inmarsat Government reinforce the strong, long-standing commercial partnership between industry and the U.S. military—a partnership that provides the value and innovation to help fulfill military’s demand for bandwidth and network connectivity, complements MILSATCOM and helps to enable future command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance requirements in support of national security interests.
David Helfgott is Inmarsat Government’s president and CEO.