Photo courtesy of Northrop Grumman.
Meeting the military
Communications are the pillar of a fighting force no matter where in the
world they may be. As we are all too aware, forces from around the globe
have recently, or are still deployed in war zones such as Afghanistan and
Iraq. As the military becomes increasingly sophisticated, the requirement
for bandwidth to accommodate their communications needs becomes
more acute. GMC looks at the demands placed on bandwidth resources
and how these can be alleviated.
In recent years, the military has advanced its communications the way information is collected and processed. The entire war envi-
capability to a quite remarkable extent. The way wars are fought has ronment is connected, meshed together by an intricate web of com-
evolved both with the enemy and also through technological advances munications links that must also interlink with other coalition forces.
that have given militaries advanced capabilities that enable them to These advancements, though impressive and vital to the forces fight-
carry out highly accurate reconnaissance and surveillance. The use ing in Afghanistan today are also reliant upon bandwidth and the
of video has given forces an unprecedented view of the battlefield frequency that carries such communications, whether that is on a
enabling much more effective command and control. Communica- satellite link, radio link or wirelessly. Satellite has grown to become
tions-on-the-move mean that soldiers no longer need to stop their an integral platform in military communications. Its inherent capabili-
vehicles on the ground to communicate. UAVs have revolutionised ties mean that it is entirely suited to the environment of war and can
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support any application. Every single facet of the communications cial satellite operators can throw up. For example, coverage over a
diamond relies upon bandwidth and there is a problem – there is not war-torn country does not only attract military users but also the
enough. major news corporations that wish to use precious bandwidth. If a
military force is reliant upon commercial bandwidth above that coun-
The view from the front line try, yet it is indemand from other parties, the bandwidth will often be
Over and over again, we hear about what the soldiers fighting, espe- very expensive and this is not cost-effective for militaries working
cially in Afghanistan, have not got. The only people that can make a with limited budgets.
reasonable and accurate assessment of their needs are those de- The issue of bandwidth insufficiency is one of the biggest chal-
ployed and operational in the areas where conflict is taking place. lenges that the military faces and could potentially threaten the de-
The most important part of addressing this problem is surely to ask ployment of key systems that support COTM and video applications
the people who are actually tasked with fighting the war, what chal- that are very bandwidth hungry. At present, no military has enough
lenges they are faced with on a daily basis. Commodore Eric Fraser, capacity to cater for the amount of demand. There is no choice but
Assistant Chief of Staff J6, Permanent Joint Headquarters (UK) spoke to turn to commercial satellite capacity. The problem is that the com-
at last years’ Global MilSatCom conference in London and he gave mercial world is now experiencing the same demand for bandwidth
the view from the front line. In terms of information and communica- intensive applications on a greater level – take HDTV for example.
tions, he highlighted the fact that troops are operating in a constantly Its massive growth in popularity is placing great constraints on mili-
changing environment where they have to adapt quickly and effi- tary capabilities.
ciently. Their communications networks must stretch from the tacti- The result of this situation is that many countries are putting
cal level, to the headquarter countries and well beyond. It must also together and already activating plans that will help to reduce their
be acknowledged that there are smaller, highly dispersed user com- heavy reliance on commercial bandwidth and make their own avail-
munities, often beyond-line-of-sight that require certain methods of able. In addition, clever use of compression techniques can help
communications to stay in touch with their commanders and each alleviate the situation and bandwidth optimisation is a keyword in
other. military circles enabling them to use what they have more efficiently.
There is an increasing information exchange requirement at a This is helping to satisfy the immediate demand.
tactical level, especially for Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnais- There is the possibility that, as the WGS satellites come into
sance (ISR) operations. This, coupled with the fact that interoperability service and dedicated capacity for the military is augmented con-
is essential to enable communications cross platform and between siderably, there will be a fall-off in demand for commercial satellite
forces, and the fact that it is a multi-domain environment, make the capacity. However, in the long term, Northern Sky Research does
whole communications situation a great deal more complex. believe that, over the long term, demand for commercial services
So what do troops actually need in terms of communications? will continue. They predict that bandwidth demand peaked in 2008
They require a link from the strategic to the tactical – between com- followed by a slowdown in commercial satellite demand, but this will
mander and front line. This typically will involve joint forces. The troops begin to increase once again in 2015.
on the front line will often be deployed across vast geographical ar- Militaries engaged in combat cannot afford to be left in a band-
eas so they must have constant peace of mind that they will always width dilemma. Therefore they need flexibility and redundancy built
be able to gain access to communications whenever and wherever into operations. Commercial capacity does two things for the mili-
they are required, with minimal risk of communications failure which tary. It is always available and it is always there as a backup if the
could be fatal. These communications must link together the whole primary choice of bandwidth fails. It is also noted by NSR that the
pyramid of personnel right from the top to the tactical edge. Away use of unmanned aerial systems will continue to see demand for
from the front line, communications between governments and within bandwidth soar as these systems play an increasingly vital role in a
governments involved in the conflict must be reliable and secure. great deal of intelligence gathering programmes within the military.
The needs of operations, intelligence, medical bodies and agencies, The continued use of commercial satellites will be inevitable but
administration, media and welfare services must all be satisfied. In there may be a change in the ratio of commercial to proprietary in
all cases, the level of classification and the type of communications the future as governments seek to do it themselves. According to
that are required will be varied. For example, an administrator will NSR, there will also be a move towards dual-mode systems that will
have very different communications requirements to a soldier in the use both military and commercial capacity in order to enhance flex-
field, and a very different classification level. The military is also look- ibility and redundancy requirements. The other issue that may affect
ing for timeliness in the delivery of systems. They are working in a use of commercial bandwidth will be any other conflict or need for
very time-sensitive environment and a certain requirement for a sys- deployment across the world such as Africa, the Middle East or North
tem on one operation may not be the same as the next, so if a cer- Korea. Military satellites have a long lead-time and can take years to
tain communications network is required, it must be deployed quickly develop, launch and become operational. As a result, in times when
and efficiently to meet the needs of the warfighter at a certain point bandwidth must be accessed quickly due to the deployment of troops
in time. In this rapidly evolving situation, to be able to adapt quickly is in a certain region, commercial capacity is a reliable remedy to the
Commercial help Solving the problem? The Wideband Global Satellite mission
The lack of bandwidth available to the military through their own The Wideband Global SATCOM or WGS satellites represent the key
means meant that they would have to go elsewhere to look for it. In elements of a high-capacity system that will provide a quantum leap
terms of satellite communications, there was, and still is a high level in communications capabilities for the United States DoD and go a
of dependence upon commercial satellite capacity as the military long way to tackling the problems presented by the lack of internal
did not have the internal means to provide for the communications military bandwidth.
links that were required. However, there has now been a significant WGS will support the DoD’s warfighting information exchange
move by the military in the United States, and also in the UK and requirements, enabling execution of tactical command and control,
further afield, to become more self sufficient in terms of bandwidth, communications, and computers; intelligence, surveillance, and re-
particularly satellite bandwidth, that fulfils many requirements that connaissance (C4ISR); battle management; and combat support in-
the military needs. formation. WGS will also augment the current Ka-band Global Broad-
Northern Sky Research released a report at the beginning of cast Service (on UHF F/O satellites) by providing additional infor-
2009 that highlights the problems that military reliance on commer- mation broadcast capabilities.
14 w w w.satellite-evolution.com | October 2009
Photo courtesy of US Army.
w w w.satellite-evolution.com | October 2009 15
Each WGS can route 2.1 to 3.6Gbps of data, providing more October 10 2007 aboard an Atlas V Launch Vehicle. The second
than 10 times the communications capacity of the predecessor DSCS was launched on 3 April 2009, also on board an Atlas V.
III satellite. Using reconfigurable antennas and a digital channeliser, Boeing was awarded the WGS initial contract in January 2001
WGS also offers added flexibility to tailor coverage areas and to con- for the first three satellites plus the associated ground-based com-
nect X-band and Ka-band users anywhere within the satellite field of mand and control elements. Integrated logistics, training, and sus-
view. The system provides tremendous operational flexibility and taining engineering support are also provided by Boeing. In 2006,
delivers the needed capacity, coverage, connectivity and control in Boeing was authorized to produce two additional WGS satellites.
support of demanding operational scenarios. The procuring agency is the US Air Force Space Command’s
Boeing was awarded the WGS initial contract in January 2001 MILSATCOM Systems Wing at Los Angeles AFB, California.
for the first three satellites plus the associated ground-based com- WGS supports communications links within the Government’s
mand and control elements. Integrated logistics, training, and sus- allocated 500 MHz of X-band and 1GHz of Ka-band spectrum. The
taining engineering support are also provided by Boeing. The pro- WGS payload can filter and route 4.875GHz of instantaneous band-
curing agency is the US Air Force Space Command’s MILSATCOM width. Depending on the mix of ground terminals, data rates and
Systems Wing at Los Angeles Air Force Base in California. modulation schemes employed, each satellite can support data trans-
The WGS space segment consists of three geostationary satel- mission rates ranging from 2.1Gbps to more than 3.6Gbps. By com-
lites operating over Pacific, Indian and Atlantic regions. Under a Block parison, a DSCS III satellite will support up to 0.25Gbps.
II contract, a fourth and fifth satellite are being procured to meet the The WGS design includes 19 independent coverage areas that
warfighter’s evolving SATCOM bandwidth requirements. The Block can be positioned throughout the field of view of each satellite. This
II satellites will be similar to the three Block I satellites already in includes eight steerable and shapeable X-band beams formed by
production and will add a radio frequency bypass capability designed separate transmit and receive phased arrays; 10 Ka-band beams
to support airborne intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance served by independently steerable, diplexed antennas, including three
platforms requiring ultra-high bandwidth and data rates demanded with selectable RF polarisation; and transmit/receive X-band Earth
by unmanned aerial vehicles. coverage beams.
The first Wideband Global SATCOM satellite was launched on The enhanced connectivity capabilities of WGS enable any user
Photo courtesy of US Army.
18 w w w.satellite-evolution.com | October 2009
Boeing’s 2nd Wideband Global SATCOM Satellite fully operational
In early October, Boeing was informed by the US Air Force that the second Wideband Global SATCOM (WGS) satellite began support-
ing on-the-ground warfighters on August 18, providing urgently needed communications services to US and allied forces in the Middle
East and central Asia.
The Boeing-built WGS-2 satellite was launched on April 3 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., and handed over to the Air
Force on June 15 for extensive on-orbit testing. The first WGS satellite began supporting US and allied operations across the entire
Pacific in April 2008 and has met and exceeded the Air Force’s expectations.
“With its outstanding capacity, operational flexibility and performance, WGS is fast becoming the satellite communications work-
horse for the US armed forces,” said Col. Bill Harding, Vice Commander of the Military Satellite Communications Systems Wing at the
Air Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center in Los Angeles. “The smooth handover of WGS-2 earlier this summer and the success-
ful start of operations clearly demonstrate the government and contractor team’s effective plan for the WGS system.”
The WGS satellites — part of the US Defense Department’s highest-capacity satellite communications system — address the
military’s growing need for high-bandwidth communications. The WGS satellites are augmenting and will eventually replace the Defense
Satellite Communications System (DSCS) constellation. One WGS satellite can support more than 12 times the capacity of one DSCS
“Boeing is committed to the success of the WGS mission because it provides such valuable service to the brave men and women
in our military services, who need and deserve the best,” said Craig Cooning, Vice President and General Manager, Boeing Space and
Intelligence Systems. “The successful operation of WGS-2 marks another great milestone for the WGS system and contributes to the
overall success of Boeing’s satellite programs this year.”
The WGS satellites are built on the proven Boeing 702 platform with 13 kilowatts of power, reconfigurable coverage areas, and the
ability to connect X-band and Ka-band users anywhere within their field of view via an onboard digital channelizer. The cross-banding
capability and reconfigurable X- and Ka-band coverages are not available on any other satellite communications system.
Boeing is building three Block I and three Block II WGS satellites for the Air Force. WGS-3 is the final satellite in the Block I series
and is scheduled for launch later this year. The Block II satellites will include a radio frequency bypass designed to support airborne
intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance platforms requiring additional bandwidth and are planned for launch in 2011 and 2012.
to communicate with any other user with very efficient use of satel- soldiers with real-time applications and information via their existing
lite bandwidth. A digital channeliser divides the uplink bandwidth into tactical networks,” said Tom Simmons, area vice president for Citrix
nearly 1,900 independently routable 2.6MHz subchannels, provid- Federal. “We’re proud and honored to support the mission of WIN-T
ing connectivity from any uplink coverage area to any downlink cov- and the warfighters it serves.”
erage area (including the ability to cross-band between X and Ka WIN-T is a critical enabler of LandWarNet, the army’s part of
frequencies). In addition, the channeliser supports multicast and GIG that includes all army networks. WIN-T introduces a mobile, ad-
broadcast services and provides an effective and flexible uplink spec- hoc, self-configuring and self-healing network using satellite on-the-
trum monitoring capability to support network control. move capabilities, robust network management and high-bandwidth
WGS allows tremendous capacity and operational flexibility to radio systems to keep mobile forces connected, communicating and
satisfy the transformational requirements of the warfighter, such as synchronized. Citrix WANScaler brings to WIN-T a best-in-class ap-
improved connectivity for intelligence, surveillance and reconnais- plication delivery for remote locations and a WAN optimization solu-
sance platforms and network-centric communications architectures. tion that improves the performance of applications to end users by
5x to 30x or more, while substantially improving productivity and re-
Optimising existing bandwidth ducing the cost of delivering those applications.
Earlier in the article we talked about the fact that there are tech- Simmons says the Citrix WANScaler offering for WIN-T is
niques that have been developed that actually optimise existing band- optimised specifically around the Department of Defense network
width, thus helping the military to live with what they have. This type and allows like devices to communicate using SCPS.
of equipment has found its own place within the satellite industry as
a whole and is used extensively. Bandwidth is expensive. This equip- Using bandwidth wisely
ment enables users to get more out of the available bandwidth they Satellite bandwidth is a precious commodity, not just in military cir-
have – it is an effective answer to the bandwidth issue. cles, but across the industries that use satellite-based communica-
Earlier in 2009, Citrix Systems, based in the United States, sup- tions. Satellite has come to play such a prominent role in the military
plied General Dynamics with over 1,500 Citrix WANScaler units that of today that the time has come for new, proprietary systems to be
will be used to help optimise satellite bandwidth for the US Army and developed to create an element of independence from the heavy
its WIN-T (Warfighter Information Network-Tactical) initiative. WIN-T use of commercial systems. However, certainly in the foreseeable
is the army’s on-the-move, high-speed, high-capacity backbone com- future, there will always be a need for commercial systems that will
munications network which links warfighters on the battlefield with work in partnership with the military to provide services as and when
the Global Information Grid (GIG). they are needed.
With Citrix WANScaler, the army has an appliance that supports Military demands are unlike any of the satellite operator’s usual
the Space Communication Protocol Standards (SCPS) and uses flow commercial customers and they have very specific requirements that
control capabilities to ensure that data and applications are deliv- must be met. Development of systems like WGS will go a long way
ered seamlessly, with no latency issues, to the end-user. Citrix to helping the military continue their communications development
WANScaler helps the army meet one of the goals of helping the CIO but will this be enough?
G-6’s 500 day plan, which is the delivery of seamless LandWarNet The rate at which new technology is being used in the field for
to soldiers. LandWarNet is the army’s information capabilities, asso- mission-critical, must-have communications is accelerating and once
ciated processes, and personnel for collecting, processing, storing, these new techniques are deployed, going back to the way things
disseminating, and managing information for supporting warfighters, were is not an option. Therefore the military demand for bandwidth
policy makers, and support personnel. will continue to increase as it is a key part of enabling a network-
“This solution enables the army to provide its forward-deployed centric fighting force.
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