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MilSatCom 2013

By Yvonne Headington

More For Less

There has been a step-change in the delivery of military satellite communications (SATCOM) as industry responds to the insatiable requirement for data and information. While more capability is sought within limited budgets, operational developments have also shifted the focus of delivery. These themes were evident during SMI’s Global MilSatCom conference and exhibition held in London from 5 to 7 November 2013.

Providing a UK perspective at Global MilSatCom 2013 Air Commodore Chris Jones, Head of Capability C4ISR at the Joint Forces Command (JFC) observed that those involved in defence information are under “increasing pressure to deliver more capability in a challenging financial climate”. Planners need to grasp the ‘congested, contested and connected’ nature of the future information domain, and use this understanding to shape the procurement of successor SATCOM capability.

While the appetite for more information grows “our ability to move this information to the right people and places in a secure and timely manner remains the biggest challenge” said Air Commodore Jones. With SATCOM the challenge is dominated by four main issues: space weather and situational awareness; demands of the disadvantaged, discontinuous or disconnected user; growing anti-satellite capabilities and increasing cyber vulnerability.

Foundation Capabilities

The JFC, which became fully operational on 2 April 2013, has created additional demands. The JFC has been established with its own Capability Directorate, assuming responsibility for joint, enabling capabilities. ‘Enablers’ are now being referred to as ‘foundation’ capabilities i.e. those capabilities that should be considered first when developing force structures and operations. As noted by Air Commodore Jones, such capabilities should not be “the afterthought that they have been in the past”.

In delivering the “military essential” assets, C4ISR is considered as the most non-discretionary capability – and SATCOM as the most non-discretionary element of that capability. “Satellite communication is the foundation on which the other foundations are built” said Air Commodore Jones. “The volumes, speeds and distances of data and information flows in the future demand nothing less”.

Air Commodore Jones also confirmed that the Information Systems & Services delivery organisation will transfer from Defence Equipment and Support (DE&S) to the JFC in April 2014 “so that policy, requirements, resources and delivery come together under a four-star organisation”. It is envisaged that this reallocation of responsibility will assist in keeping pace with technology developments across the C4ISR sector.

Future Requirements

While future SATCOM requirements will draw upon important lessons from the conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, priorities are now focused on developing joint expeditionary forces and capabilities for contingency operations. Air Commodore Jones reminded his audience that Forces are likely to be operating in a contested battlespace “with competition for bandwidth and access, in scenarios of denial and disruption, at range and tempo”. ‘Concurrency’ will be a key factor i.e. “how many things can we do or what should we choose to be doing at the same time”.

In terms of SATCOM, this translates as the need for: global reach, military assured services and sovereign capabilities, as well as the need to understand resilience and risk. A balance needs to be struck between affordability and agility in meeting the requirements of Future Force 2020 programmes – and, in particular, the appetite for information flows across SATCOM within each programme. “The clock is ticking on our plans on how we will meet that demand”.

Current UK Assets

An overview of current UK capabilities was provided by Commander Ian Pears from the JFC C4ISR Capability Branch. Within the la

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