User terminals can leverage AI for SATCOM network interoperability
For the U.S. military, mission success requires moving quickly to adjust to dynamic circumstances and to maintain superiority against dangerous adversaries. To achieve this goal, every person, platform and device within the military must be connected 24x7 to all others to support real-time strategic decision making. Yet military satellite communications (SATCOM) networks are typically built as “closed” or “stovepipe” systems which do not allow data or information to flow in or out. While this keeps them highly secure, joint force system users are unable to exchange data with one another across networks.
Today, the military has more than 17,000 of these user terminals deployed worldwide for various aeronautical, land and maritime applications. To support all military services and multi-domain missions, these terminals must be upgraded to be interoperable and share information across the Department of Defense’s global enterprise network. This is a critical step in operationalizing the Joint All-Domain Command and Control concept. Yet to reconfigure these systems to be interoperable requires considerable time and resources.
Until now. The Terminal Management Agent (TMA) from Hughes is the missing link to 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.
Hughes first developed and tested TMA as a commercial innovation before piloting a Flexible Modem Interface (FMI) prototype to support the U.S. Air Force. This approach enables the Department of Defense to benefit from already proven solutions, without investing even more time, money, and resources in development.
In the August 2020 strategic plan titled Accelerate Change or Lose, General Charles Q. Brown, Jr., Air Force Chief of Staff, acknowledges this shift, “Unlike the past, much of the emerging technologies that will determine our future are no longer created or funded by the Department of Defense.”
“Our Airmen need us to integrate and accelerate the changes necessary to explore new operational concepts and bring more rapidly the capabilities that will help them in the future fights.”
Dynamic Readiness through Simple Software Upgrades
With TMA, user terminals can now be upgraded and modernized easily and cost-effectively. Given its small software footprint, TMA can be hosted on a terminal computer Virtual Machine (VM) or on an approved plug-in, such as a dongle adapter. TMA’s advanced software-enabled technology operates within a satellite terminal to autonomously interconnect 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.
Relying on Artificial Intelligence (AI) rules-engine technology to automate terminal control functions, TMA also monitors terminal components and collects and forwards data to the Global Network Operations Center to optimize network performance. Such data mining and analytics uncover:
- Health indicators for components and functions
- Signal and noise measurements to assess purposeful and accidental RF interference
- User traffic data rates, packet loss and delays
- Cybersecurity incidents and malware activities
Within only minutes and based on such analytics, the TMA can command changes to terminal modems and antennas based on mission needs as specified in executable policies. This may cover spectrum priority and availability, types of waveforms, or operational environments – any element that may be used to improve performance.
Because military operations — and the adversaries they face — have changed dramatically over the last decade, joint forces need SATCOM solutions to support ubiquitous connectivity and greater network resilience. Innovations like the Hughes TMA capability that are borne from commercial software are not only the missing link, but a quicker path to dynamic mission readiness.