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Military Leaders Share Concerns – and Hopes – for Future of SATCOM

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Across three days of presentations during the Global MilSatCom virtual conference in early November, military leaders shared their perspectives on a variety of topics, including SATCOM resilience, hybrid capability, payload delivery, Beyond Line of Sight (BLoS) provisions, use of multi-orbit constellations, increased international cooperation and the future of connectivity for the warfighter. As the United States builds the Space Force, its sixth branch of the military, these and other issues are top of mind. Here we explore several themes that emerged from the presentations.

The Need for More Vendors and Partners

Currently, according to speakers, there is growing consensus that the U.S. military doesn’t want to be tied to or limited by the capabilities of just one or two major providers. Instead, they are looking for a multi-vendor environment that would help diversify and strengthen their capabilities with innovative commercial offerings. The Department of Defense (DoD) also wants greater collaboration with international partners so all U.S. and allied agencies can increase SATCOM resiliency options through GEO, MEO, and LEO constellations. According to Deanna Ryals Chief Partnership Office, U.S. Space Force, the DoD must emphasize international partnerships as they have become the only way to maintain superiority moving into the future.

Hughes stands ready to help DoD meet these objectives with partners around the world and our own innovations, including our work developing the Flexible Modem Interface standard, which we demonstrated recently.

A Shorter Procurement Cycle

Other insights (and pain points) noted by DoD leaders is the five- to seven-year procurement process they must endure when trying to deploy “new” technologies. Of course, with such a lengthy cycle, technologies become obsolete before they’ve even been deployed. This impedes the military’s ability to be fast and nimble and puts them in a constant state of playing catch up.

Because Hughes develops both commercial and defense solutions, we’re in a position to leverage our commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) solutions and streamline them to suit deployment timing. This rapid production to deployment framework can help to meet the DoD/Army’s goal of trimming their process to a two-year cycle and provide options for periodic technology refresh.

By being aligned with procurement vehicles like SEWP and other contracts, Hughes can also quickly deploy satellite services like our Hughes Mission Connect, which delivers Internet connectivity abroad from a trusted name at home. Again, thanks to our global partnerships, we can deliver service practically anywhere in the world. For example, through our joint venture with Yahsat, we have access to High-Throughput Ka-band capacity across the Middle East, sub-Saharan Africa and Brazil. All of this can help the DoD to shorten their procurement cycle.

Unified Network Management

A priority for the DoD is reducing the number of systems they use for operations, training, and maintenance. By applying a Unified Network Management (UNM) approach, they plan to move away from siloed SATCOM networks toward more interoperability so they can quickly stand up networks in a multi-fabric environment. Here too, their goals are about flexibility, capacity, modularity, and resiliency.

State and federal government agencies across the country use HughesON™ Managed Network Services to meet the need for UNM with a hybrid architecture using multiple carriers across distributed networks. Managed services like these ensure security, optimize traffic flow, prevent outages and can even self-heal anomalies that could cause service disruption. They support dynamic resource allocation and quality of service – key objectives for military leaders under their UNM vision.

So the DoD can become more efficient in their multi-billion dollar spending each year to acquire and maintain their SATCOM capabilities, it makes sense for all the military services to share a common, unified vision for future connectivity that can support the warfighter in today’s contested environment, no matter the location.