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10 Sep 19. Viasat’s Suite of Network Encryption Products Available for Use by Five Eyes Coalition Forces. Interoperability of Network Encryption Products Enables Coalition Militaries to Securely Protect Critical Information and Improve Mission Effectiveness across a Diverse Battlespace
Viasat Inc. (NASDAQ: VSAT), a global communications company, today announced its expansive line of network encryption products are available for use by all Five Eyes (FVEY) partner nations. Viasat is an industry-leading network encryption provider with over two decades of experience protecting the integrity of governments’ most sensitive information.
Viasat’s network encryption products use patented programmable cryptographic technology that is designed to safeguard sensitive information across today’s battlespace—from the cloud to the tactical edge. Viasat is also currently the only U.S. company to support Type 1 encryption for both Layer 2 EDE (Ethernet Data Encryption) and Layer 3 HAIPE® (High Assurance Internet Protocol Encryptor) network protocols.
“The explosion of connected devices, cloud-centric networks and today’s rapidly evolving cyber-threats has put the need for enhanced, interoperable network encryption solutions center stage,” said Ken Peterman, president, Government Systems, Viasat. “By offering support for different network topologies across our portfolio of encryption products, we are able to help FVEY government and military organizations secure their communications and sensitive data across next-generation network infrastructures and cloud-based systems.”
Viasat has a proven track record of first-to-market products in the information assurance and network encryption market. For example, Viasat was first to offer a 100-gigabit-per-second Type 1 network encryption device, known to the U.S. Government as the KG-142.
11 Sep 19. Defence Secretary Announces Boost for Multi-Billion-Pound SKYNET 6 Programme. UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace has made his first keynote speech today, announcing the first step towards upgrading the UK’s military satellite communications system, SKYNET.
Speaking at the DSEi conference today, the Defence Secretary outlined an ambitious and global vision for defence. He highlighted the UK’s decisive contribution to the fight against Daesh and RFA Mounts Bay’s role providing critical humanitarian relief in response to Hurricane Dorian.
Following the announcement that the MOD will receive an extra £2.2bn as part of the Spending Round last week, the Defence Secretary laid out his plan to invest in new capabilities across all five warfighting domains – land, sea, air, cyber and space.
In particular, the Defence Secretary announced the launch of a new competition to operate and maintain the UK’s next-generation military satellite communications system, SKYNET 6.
Speaking at the DSEi conference today, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said: “Fifty years ago, Britain put its first satellite, SKYNET1, in space. Today we’re having to deal with increasing threats to satellite-based navigation and the need for robust communications has never been more vital. That’s why we’re developing SKYNET6 which will give our forces unparalleled capacity to talk to each other in any hostile environment.”
50 years on from the launch of the first SKYNET satellite (SKYNET 1A) in November 1969 and following the success of subsequent SKYNET programmes, the MOD is upgrading its military satellite system providing secure, long-range communications to the armed forces and UK allies. This upgraded system could be used to facilitate the transmission of secure communications from a ship at sea, support Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) operations, allow fighter jet pilots to receive or upload operational data in real-time, or enable land forces to conduct missions in remote environments.
Satellite communication systems are vital to operating effectively in hostile environments in which secure communications are required or commercial communication systems may have been disabled or are insufficient.
This contract, named SKYNET 6 Service Delivery Wrap (SDW), covers the operation of the UK’s constellation of satellites and ground stations, and the provision and management of ground terminal infrastructure.
Further contracts, covering other aspects of the SKYNET 6 programme, worth approximately £6bn, will be announced in the coming months.
Julian Knight, Head of Networks at the MOD’s Information Systems and Services organisation (ISS) said: “We are about to enter a vital phase of the SKYNET programme. This competition is a significant opportunity for industry to work at the very heart of our programme – delivering improved flight and ground operations.
“We are seeking an innovative partner that will ensure effective and consistent Defence Satellite communications and will look to continually maximise performance and value for money.”
The successful bidder will also negotiate the MOD’s access to commercial satellite services, as well as managing the UK’s contribution and access to systems owned and operated by the UK’s allies.
SKYNET 6 SDW will require many of the same highly-skilled jobs currently employed by SKYNET 5 programme and will continue to contribute to the department’s prosperity objectives. (Source: defense-aerospace.com/ UK Ministry of Defence)
BATTLESPACE Comment: Expect some new faces on the block to bid Skynet 6 given that the MoD has now requested ‘an innovative partner’ to provide a suite of satcom communications not just a fleet of new satellites. It is likely that the MoD will lease more space rather than buy the full fleet of like for like birds to replace the five Skynet 5 satellites. Fujitsu, Viasat, Lockheed Martin and Inmarsat are amongst companies who are expected to join the ranks of bidders against incumbents Airbus. In addition look for specialist SMEs such as Spectra Group Plc and Hughes Systems, part of Echostar to play roles in Skynet 6.
12 Sep 19. Dstl announces future ground vehicle and SAR satellite programmes. UK Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) chief executive Gary Aitkenhead has announced two new programmes lead by the laboratory to develop novel ground vehicles and satellites.
The satellite programme, ‘Project Oberon’, will see Dstl partner with Airbus to develop and deploy a cluster of ultra-high-resolution Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) satellites as early as 2025.
Aitkenhead said: “This addition to our capability is a valuable part of the future of defence space. Partnership between Dstl and Airbus on this project secures UK jobs as well as continuing to exploit advances in the UK space sector.”
The satellites will be capable of seeing the Earth in all weather conditions and at night, as described by Aitkenhead. Dstl said it expects to be able to field a prototype demonstrator by 2022.
Project Oberon is part of a £50m commitment by Dstl to develop future space capabilities of the UK which are becoming increasingly integral to military activities.
The ground vehicle programme will be boosted by £3.2m of investment from Dstl and be led by QinetiQ. The aim of the programme is to boost the performance of UK Future ground combat vehicles.
Aitkenhead told DSEI the system will employ advancements from Formula 1 racing to employ electric drive systems into future vehicles.
Aitkenhead said: “Technology changes the way we do things in every aspect of our daily lives. This is never truer than adapting the way we work, even on the battlefield.
“We are working in partnership with QinetiQ to deliver a three-year programme, which will move from concept studies to prototype testing in a real-world environment. This project will help ensure we have the best ground fleet ever.”
The programme will be executed over three-years, with the first focusing on ‘studies, concepts and modelling’. The following two-years will be used to prototype and test the vehicles developed.
Aitkenhead stressed the importance of Dstl to the UK defence sector and the work of Dstl across the whole range of warfare domains saying: “Dstl is at the heart of UK’s security.”
The laboratory employs over 4,000 personnel from wargamers to sports psychologists leading the development, deployment and testing of advanced systems for the Ministry of Defence. (Source: army-technology.com)
28 Aug 19. Viasat Inc. (NASDAQ: VSAT), a global communications company, has successfully upgraded the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s (NATO) Ultra High Frequency (UHF) satellite communications (SATCOM) control stations to comply with the new Integrated Waveform (IW) baseline. Using Viasat’s Visual Integrated Satellite communications Information, Operation and Networking (VISION) software platform, NATO gains greater communications interoperability, scalability and flexibility across legacy and next-generation platforms, which it expects will significantly enhance warfighters’ situational awareness and operational insights on the battlespace.
Viasat’s VISION platform is the first commercially-available software package to simultaneously support all 25-kHz legacy Demand-Assigned Multiple-Access (DAMA) and next-generation IW networks and services. The VISION platform has enabled the following benefits for NATO:
- Faster communications: VISION reduced time to access software from 90 seconds to 4 seconds;
- Better reliability: VISION offered greater reliability when compared to previous waveforms;
- Improved functionality: VISION doubled NATO’s channel efficiency; and
- Enhanced bandwidth: VISION gave network operators real-time capabilities to reconfigure UHF satellite networks to meet new mission profiles on-the-fly.
“Viasat’s close partnership with NATO has been instrumental in helping the agency transition to new IW standards ahead of government schedules,” said Giovanni Battista Durando, NATO Communications and Information Agency, Network Services and IT Infrastructure, SATCOM Service Area Owner. “By leveraging the Viasat VISION software, NATO network operators have gained more control over communications stations from a single terminal, simplifying operations and increasing the readiness of today’s warfighter.”
“This NATO upgrade was fielded on time and under budget—further demonstrating the value of Viasat’s agile business models and deep customer knowledge,” said Ken Peterman, president, Government Systems, Viasat. “By working closely to understand NATO’s most urgent needs, Viasat was able to deliver a cost-effective, scalable and interoperable technology capability needed to support emerging mission demands and help NATO warfighters maintain communications at the tactical edge.”
The Viasat VISION platform provides a single, user-friendly network management interface for legacy DAMA and IW services, inclusive of the ability to locally or remotely manage and control ground station networks, monitor status and system performance, track event/alarm management situations and add/remove services when missions change. By enabling interoperability between DAMA and IW platforms, NATO can double its channel efficiency without additional investment in the UHF space segment. This optimization doubles the number of users, giving more warfighters access to reliable, high-quality, resilient voice and data communications.
05 Sep 19. Viasat highlights Skynet 6 at DSEI. Ministry of Defence in the wake of Boris Johnson’s new cabinet. Despite the ongoing shadow cast by Brexit, there are key decisions that need to be made as the Ministry of Defence (MoD) looks to modernise UK armed forces.
- Skynet-6 needs to respond to growing perils: The MoD recognised the importance of connectivity with the Skynet-5 program, but with the contract ending in late 2022, the role of Skynet-6 is still to be determined. With UK commitments spanning the globe and threats from adversaries evolving, as well as the development sophisticated anti-satellite space weapons, Steve and Ken can explain what the modern capabilities of Skynet-6 should look like, and how this will help the UK and the MOD respond to the threats it faces.
- The changing face of troops: The new generation of soldiers has grown accustomed to always being connected, but despite this, the average smartphone user typically has more “tactical awareness” than those in the battlefield (i.e. find friends or ordering a cab often includes more detailed information than troops get on the field). The private sector will be vital in delivering the next generation of tactical awareness, and Steve and Ken can explain how the MoD can lean on the experience of the private sector to develop a Skynet-6 program that aids boots on the ground.
- Viasat growth and investment in the UK: Based along the M3 tech corridor, Viasat has grown to 80 defence and technology experts across the UK. Viasat works with Five Eyes allies, including the MoD, UK Space Industry and National Cyber Security Centre on initiatives such as satellite connectivity for defence systems. Steve and Ken can outline their plans for future UK investment, with plans to open new network operations and security operations centre and the development of hybrid adaptive networks for government and defence applications.
09 Sep 19. Airbus and Telespazio (Leonardo/Thales) have set up a partnership to market military telecommunications services using the future Syracuse IV satellites.
This partnership will lead to the creation of France’s leading private operator of military satellite telecommunications. It demonstrates the desire for cooperation by European industrial prime contractors Airbus, Thales and Leonardo, as well as the French State, in marketing Syracuse IV satellite capacity for the benefit of armed and security forces in Europe and around the world.
The French Defence Procurement Agency (DGA), Airbus, Thales Alenia Space and Telespazio have put together an innovative financing initiative, enabling any excess satellite capacity to be sold to third-party customers, thereby bringing down the total cost of ownership of the Syracuse IV system. These sales contracts, scheduled for a 10-year period, will enable allied countries or organisations to be offered simple, flexible and reactive access to a strategic resource, thus strengthening France’s international cooperation arrangements in the field of defence and security.
With this partnership, Airbus and Telespazio will be able to sell Syracuse IV satellite capacity and various high-added-value services such as anchor capacity (connection of satellite communications to the ground networks of third-party customers), end-to-end services with capacity and throughput guarantees, engineering and maintenance services.
These services will be accessible over a broad area ranging from French Guiana to the Straits of Malacca and will be deployed for maritime, terrestrial and air uses. Allied forces will thus have access to communication capacity in X-band, military Ka-band and X/Ka dual-band mode, offering unique flexibility while benefiting from the highest levels of protection and hardening provided for in the NATO standards. Their units deployed in the field will be able to exchange video, voice and data via all-IP (Internet Protocol) communications at rates of up to several hundred Mbit/s.
“Airbus is capitalising on the unique experience of satellite services for the armed forces to enhance its range with a system equipped with the most advanced space and terrestrial telecommunication technologies,” said Eric Souleres, Head of Communications, Intelligence & Security Engineering at Airbus Defence and Space.
“Building on its expertise in the field, Telespazio is proud to consolidate its role as a trusted operator of French military telecommunications satellites and contribute to an innovative operation which will round out its world-class range of government capacity services,” said Jean-Marc Gardin, CEO of Telespazio France and Deputy CEO of the Telespazio Group.
Syracuse IV is a telecommunication system consisting of two military satellites, Syracuse 4A and 4B, plus ground stations to ensure communications in the operational areas and with mainland France. These two 3.5-tonne class, electric-propulsion geostationary satellites are being built by an industrial group consisting of Thales Alenia Space and Airbus, with launch planned for 2022. They will be supplemented in around 2030 by a third satellite in order to meet growing needs, in particular the specific needs of air vehicles (aircraft, UAVs). These new-generation satellites will be the first to offer a completely flexible reconfiguration of the X‑ and Ka-band military payload as well as the means of protection and hardening against cyber, jamming, intercept and EMP-type threats.
10 Sep 19. Commercial space innovation presents military challenges. The most innovative communications and military computing equipment now comes from the commercial sector, rather than military R&D labs, Dr Stuart Eves, Consultant and Director at SJE Space, argued at DSEI on 10 September.
Speaking during a panel session on command and control in space, Eves also stated: ‘I think that the military has to get used to the fact that it’s working in an environment where it doesn’t necessarily just command information superiority.’
Eves noted how antiquated current laws around space are, saying ‘most legal precedent comes from treaties signed in the 1960s and 1970s’. He noted that much of this was signed by state actors, and that the world has moved on from this – a lot of space activity is now centred on the commercial sector.
‘The truly large constellations of satellites being proposed are coming from commercial companies,’ Eves said, referring to companies such as SpaceX (which aims to have the almost 12,000 satellite Starlink constellation up by the mid-2020s) and Planet Labs (which has nearly 300 earth imaging satellites in space, 150 of which are active)
‘The investments by commercial companies have moved the areas of communications and computing way beyond some of the things that the military does.’
Eves discouraged the idea of the military using these commercial satellite constellations however, citing issues such as commercial satellites not having the proper protections needed for a military satellite – ‘protection costs money’.
He noted that whilst it was commercially viable for a commercial satellite to have protections such as redundant components, there would be no viability for protection against a high-altitude nuclear blast, for example. The implication being that these satellites could be taken down by an aggressor with relative ease if they really wanted to.
Further issues that Eves discussed included the fact that commercial satellites are providing a service globally, and raised the issue of a commercial company having to ‘pick sides’ in any conflict, given items like penalty clauses, loyalty and commercial liability may be at play.
Eves also noted that the commercial sector was pushing forward in space situational awareness (SSA).
While historically space tracking had largely been done by radar, owned by nation states, recently companies such as LeoLabs have invested in to this sector and now own systems that will do a ‘much, much better job of providing surveillance of space’. (Source: Shephard)
At Viasat, we’re driven to connect every warfighter, platform, and node on the battlefield. As a global communications company, we power millions of fast, resilient connections for military forces around the world – connections that have the capacity to revolutionize the mission – in the air, on the ground, and at sea. Our customers depend on us for connectivity that brings greater operational capabilities, whether we’re securing the U.S. Government’s networks, delivering satellite and wireless communications to the remote edges of the battlefield, or providing senior leaders with the ability to perform mission-critical communications while in flight. We’re a team of fearless innovators, driven to redefine what’s possible. And we’re not done – we’re just beginning.