Space Defense

Air Force Warfighter’s Satellite Communications Threat

Air Force Warfighter Satellite

In the face of a rising threat against electronic communications, the Air Force is quickly moving forward with efforts to formulate a fresh, more resilient, harder-to-jam waveform that soldiers would use around the battlefield.

The service expects responses from industry soon on the recent get information around protected satellite communications. The request sought industry assistance with how best to implement a brand new, more resilient protected tactical waveform (PTW), which enables anti-jamming capabilities within protected tactical SATCOM.

“The Air Force is looking to shield our warfighter’s satellite communications against adversarial electronic jamming,” the Air Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC) said inside a written statement.

The threat emanates from “adversarial electronic jammers that are designed to disrupt and restrict U.S. satellite communications,” leaders at SMC said. Protected tactical SATCOM is envisioned to offer worldwide, anti-jam communications to tactical warfighters in benign and contested environments.

The mission to solidify satellite communication links has had on increasing urgency lately. As satellite communications emerge an integral component in the military’s command and control infrastructure, potential adversaries have increased their ability to disrupt such links.

“Tactical satellite communications are essential to worldwide military operations,” the agency noted. “Our adversaries know this and wish to disrupt U.S. satellite communications. The Air Force is fielding Protected Tactical SATCOM capabilities to ensure warfighters around the world get access to secure and reliable communications.”

Industry is predicted to learn a key role within the development and deployment from a new waveform.

Officials at SMC declared early prototyping efforts will likely be conducted over the Space Enterprise Consortium (SpEC), that is managed by Advanced Technology International. SpEC provides a vehicle to facilitate federally-funded space-related prototype projects with the eye toward increasing flexibility, decreasing cost and shortening the growth lifecycle. The organization claims 16 prototype awards up to now, by incorporating $26 million in funding awarded.

Government documents describe PTW because the centerpiece with the broader protected tactical SATCOM effort, noting it provides “cost-effective, protected communications over both military and commercial satellites in multiple frequency bands as well as broader protection, more resiliency, more throughput and much more efficient utilization of satellite bandwidth.”

A flight test last year at Hansom Air Force Base suggested the emerging tool may soon expect deliver on such expectations.

While SMC leads the PTW effort, Hanscom is in collaboration with MIT Lincoln Laboratory and also the MITRE Corp. to conduct ground and airborne terminal work.

Researchers from MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory flew a Boeing 707 test aircraft for two and a half hours site in order to the waveform during flight. With a commercial satellite, officials gathered data for the PTW’s capacity to operate under realistic flight conditions. “We know this capability is a thing that will help our warfighters tremendously, mainly because it will not only provide anti-jam communications, and also the lowest chance of detection and intercept,” Bill Lyons, Advanced Development program manager and PTW lead at Hanscom, said within an Air Force news release.

The test scenario required the waveform to function successfully in an aircraft-mounted terminal. Researchers are trying to evaluate if its systems and algorithms will work in a highly mobile environment.

“Everything worked and now we got the objectives accomplished successfully,” Ken Hetling, Advanced Satcom Systems and Operations associate group leader at Lincoln Laboratory, said in an Air Force news release. “The waveform worked.”

Asking for industry input should help the want to chart its next steps inside development of more protections.

While the request won’t specify when or how a Air Force offers to move forward, it is clearly a subject not of whether the military will go down this road, but alternatively when and just how.

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