Gen. John W. "Jay" Raymond, Chief of Space Operations, U.S. Space Force remarked recently that, “Space underpins our economy, safety, and way of life. It underpins every instrument of national power.” That is evident across the defense communications landscape in leading-edge projects from airborne satcom for ISR to LEO deployments to 5G standalone networks. While the missions and the battlefields may vary, I’m seeing the following five themes:
- The increasing role of space in defense. From banking to navigation to internet access, the world depends on space-based connectivity more than ever – and the Defense industry is no different. What’s more, space will likely be a new frontline in an emerging conflict. The future of the military in space hinges on systems that are purpose-built to meet specific requirements and highly resilient with multiple transports and orbits.
- Rising use by the DoD of multi-constellation, multi-transport and software-defined networks. The DoD is moving into low earth orbit (LEO) systems in a big way—primarily due to the resiliency, low latency and polar coverage of these systems. Is the future LEO only? Not at all, especially since LEO capacity is constrained given much of its coverage is over the oceans where there are few users. That leads us back to geostationary satellites (GEO), where capacity can be directed to regions that require it. Tie this together through the use of software-defined networking (where you can pick the best path on a packet-by-packet basis) and you can see the future lies in multi-constellation, multi-transport systems. Our work with OneWeb is a great demonstration of the power of LEO for military SATCOM and beyond.
- Development and progress of JADC2 and related projects, including ABMS, Project Convergence and Project Overmatch. The overarching concept of Joint All-Domain Command and Control (JADC2) and its guidelines to ensure that all systems “talk” to each other is driving the Air Force (ABMS), Army (Project Convergence) and Navy (Project Overmatch) to work on their own demonstrations and initial concepts to meet the joint requirements. All forms of communication will play roles, as will software-defined networking and overall network management to achieve a common command and control system across forces. Industry collaboration will be essential in bringing this all together – which leads us to…
- Greater value of commercial technology in defense networks. The defense industry is relying increasingly on commercial technologies and processes integrated into space-based networks for greater resiliency. We’re seeing this in two ways: adaptations of commercial innovations into DoD purpose-built systems as well as commercial off-the-shelf products and services (e.g., transponded bandwidth and managed services). Given what we are learning about defense communication networks in Ukraine, both approaches will be vital. But I believe, as DoD purpose-built SATCOM systems become more prevalent, applying commercial technologies and processes within these systems will be essential to their success and rapid evolution.
- Standalone 5G deployments for the DoD. 5G technology is like having high-speed Wi-Fi everywhere — a “network of networks” in which fiber, wireless and satellite connections operate as a single, seamless communications system. So, what does this bring to the DoD? Beyond higher speeds and lower latency, DoD will reap the benefits of secure, private 5G wireless deployments at DoD facilities; zero-trust security architecture, which verifies every network access request before permission is granted, no matter where that request originates; and the ability to run edge applications and to proactively identify—and heal—network issues with artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML).
These trends portend a path to Gen. Raymond’s strategic goals to address end-user needs, facilitate operations, and foster an integrated commercial and government approach; bolster and create mutually beneficial relationships; and explore commercial technologies to expand capabilities and mitigate command gaps.