satellite

C4ISR

NATO to boost satellite, comms spending

Largely unnoticed amid the Trump administration's proposed military buildup and claims that NATO members are not paying their fair share, there are reports the western alliance plans to spend more than $3.2 billion to upgrade satellite communications and the computer infrastructure in Europe used for command and control of air and missile defenses.

According to several reports out of Brussels citing senior NATO officials, the alliance plans to invest more than $1.83 billion over the next three years on satellite communications upgrades. The new satellite networks would support troops, ships and, increasingly, unmanned aircraft being integrated into NATO operations.

Meanwhile, according to a Reuters report from Brussels, the alliance plans to spend about $76 billion over the same period on cyber defenses at key NATO installations. The funding also will be used to provide more secure mobile communications for far-flung NATO ground forces.

Joint NATO exercises have been hampered by a lack of secure battlefield communications, resurrecting long-standing concerns about interoperability along with the availability of programmable encryption needed to overcome improving Russian electronic warfare systems such as communications jammers.

Use of encryption technology is restricted by U.S. export controls, which has made it difficult to share with some NATO allies.

In response, European partners are currently demonstrating a proposed "cross-platform military radio technology" under the European Secure Software Defined Radio program.

Still unclear is whether NATO would use the $1.83 billion earmarked for expanded satellite communications to launch new satellites or whether it would purchase bandwidth from existing U.S. or European satellite operators.

The Trump administration's initial budget request for fiscal 2018 includes a $54 billion increase in military spending. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was expected to press NATO allies on weapons spending during foreign ministers meetings in Brussels scheduled for Friday (March 31).

"We will look at how to further strengthen the transatlantic bond, with more and better defense spending and fairer burden sharing across the Alliance," NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Thursday (March 30).

About the Author

George Leopold is a contributing editor for Defense Systems and author of Calculated Risk: The Supersonic Life and Times of Gus Grissom."Connect with him on Twitter at @gleopold1.

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