As General Charles Q. Brown, Jr., Air Force Chief of Staff, acknowledged in the August 2020 strategic plan titled Accelerate Change or Lose, “Unlike the past, much of the emerging technologies that will determine our future are no longer created or funded by the Department of Defense.” Instead, innovators, like Hughes, develop commercial technologies that enable the DoD to benefit from already proven solutions, without investing additional time, money, and resources in development.
One example of how commercial innovation yields resilient networking solutions for the DoD is the Terminal Management Agent (TMA) from Hughes. Hughes first developed and tested TMA as a commercial innovation before piloting a prototype to support the U.S. Air Force. TMA’s advanced software-enabled technology operates within a satellite terminal to interconnect autonomously with both commercial and military satellite modems—leveraging new and powerful commercial High Throughput Satellite (HTS) services. TMA also supports legacy systems, regardless of manufacturer. The result is that terminals gain a full range of capabilities, such as the ability to roam automatically across multiple service providers and platforms for improved network resiliency. TMA can make truly integrated and ubiquitous SATCOM military networks a reality, providing joint forces with secure connectivity to each other – regardless of their operational location, system, or platform.
Commercial innovations are no less tested and vetted than those initiated within DoD. In fact, they often are subjected to robust studies and trials, as in the case of the TMA, which underwent five major milestones in development and testing in defense environments:
2017 – Hughes tapped by DoD to help assess the ideal hybrid SATCOM architecture with diverse systems working together. Hughes recommended a SATCOM strategy that supports interoperability for wideband applications to enhance communications infrastructure and reduce acquisitions and operations costs.
2018 – In a second phase study, Hughes explored how an interoperable system solution can be implemented effectively. As part of this phase, Hughes produced a new TMA software implementing Flexible Modem Interface (FMI) standard for demonstration and evaluation.
2019 – Hughes and NASA together tested the TMA/FMI technology in a demonstration with the International Space Station (ISS) autonomously switching a communications signal from the FMI-outfitted ground terminal, between different modems aboard the ISS.
2020 – Hughes demonstrated the TMA/FMI and Enterprise Management and Control (EMC) technologies with full PACE planning and situational awareness. The TMA software accesses situational data – including operational environment, mission plans, potential satellite access issues, and mission priority based on available services – to make autonomous decisions about its host terminal’s use of diverse resources.
2022 – The Hughes TMA supports aero and terrestrial applications and ensures continuous connectivity across orbits, bands, manufacturers and service providers (both commercial and defense providers).
Today, the military has more than 17,000 closed system user terminals deployed worldwide for various aeronautical, land and maritime applications that are unable to “talk” to each other. To support all military services and multi-domain missions, these terminals must be upgraded to be interoperable and share information across the DoD’s global enterprise network. With innovations like the TMA, these user terminals can be upgraded and modernized easily and cost-effectively — exemplifying exactly how commercial innovation can benefit defense systems. Read more about how the TMA delivers mission critical connectivity with reliability and flexibility in the white paper.