US Navy Beefs Up Commercial Satellite Capacity for Ships
In the early weeks of Operation Iraqi Freedom, the US military satellite communications capacity was overwhelmed by the demand from US troops for satellite bandwidth to transmit voice and data communication. In response, the US military dramatically increased its use of commercial satellite capacity to meet the explosion of demand.
A study by the Satellite Industry Association found that 80% of all US military satellite communication during the Iraq invasion was carried on commercial satellites. Then-US assistant secretary of defense for networks and information integration, John P. Stenbit, estimated that the US military purchased between $200 million and $300 million worth of commercial satellite services during the first year of the war.
Recognizing the military’s reliance on commercial satellites, the US Navy undertook an effort, called the Commercial Broadband Satellite Program (CBSP), to develop and deploy satellite communication terminals specifically designed to increase the Navy’s commercial satellite communications capability…
The Navy expects to eventually deploy 200 of the high capacity terminals, which will be able to send data at a speedy 21.4 Mbps as opposed to the current Inmarsat and Commercial Wideband Satellite Program terminals, which can only send data at 4 Mbps.
Companies manufacturing the terminals are CVG, which is supplying the small ship variant (SSV) terminal, and Harris, which is supplying the unit level variant (ULV) terminals for cruisers and destroyers and the force level variant (FLV) terminals for aircraft carriers and other large deck ships.
The terminals, however, are only half of the story. The other half is the commercial satellite capacity. To supply satellite communications capacity to the terminals, the Navy is turning to Intelsat, the largest commercial supplier of satellite capacity in the world. The Navy awarded Intelsat a contract worth up to $542.7 million to provide commercial satellite communications services in the C-, Ku-, and X-bands.
Intelsat was an international organization founded in 1964 to provide then exotic and expensive satellite communication service. The US government was the largest owner. Then, after a multi-year process, the governments sold off their stakes and in 2005 a group of private investors purchased the company. Intelsat is the world’s largest commercial satellite provider with a fleet of 51 communications satellites.
Beyond the commercial satellite communication requirement of the US Navy, there is also considerable demand from NATO countries for broadband terminals.
Contracts and Key Events
Jan 25/10: Intelsat General Corp., a subsidiary of Intelsat, received a firm-fixed-price, indefinite-delivery/ indefinite quantity contract from the Navy’s Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command to provide CBSP satellite communication services. Under the contract, with a guaranteed minimum of $10 million and a ceiling of $542.7 million, Intelsat will provide the following commercial satellite communications services: C, Ku, and X-band satellite resources, land earth stations, terrestrial backhauls, and bandwidth management services.
The period of performance is Jan 26/10 through Jan 25/15 (a 1-year base with 4 one-year options). The solicitation was posted on FedBizOpps with 5 offers received by the Defense Information Technology Contracting Organization at Scott Air Force Base (HC1013-10-D-2000).
Nov 3/09: Harris Corp. in Melbourne, FL announced that it had successfully completed system qualification testing of a satellite terminal that will provide US Navy personnel onboard frigates, cruisers and destroyers with access to the Internet, video and other broadband services. Completion of the testing moves the CBSP ULV contract into the initial production phase.
June 16/08: Harris Corp. in Melbourne, FL received a potential 5-year, $77 million indefinite-delivery/ indefinite quantity contract from the US Navy for development and production of multiband satellite communications terminals that will provide high-speed communications for military personnel serving onboard cruisers and destroyers. Under the contract, the company received an initial award valued at $17.5 million.
Harris will supply up to 55 1.3-meter (4.3-foot) satellite communications terminals with X- and Ku-band capabilities for the Navy’s CBSP ULV. The higher bandwidth capacity of these terminals will enable the Navy to provide high-speed Internet access and video communications onboard destroyers and other unit level ships, which carry as many as 300 military personnel.
May 28/08: Harris Corp. in Melbourne, FL received a potential 5-year, $85 million indefinite delivery/ indefinite quantity contract from the US Navy for multiband satellite communications terminals that will provide advanced communications for aircraft carriers and other large deck ships. Under the contract, the company received an initial award valued at $15 million.
Harris will supply 2.7-meter (8.9-foot) satellite communications terminals with C- and Ku-band capabilities for the Navy’s CBSP FLV. The higher bandwidth capacity of these terminals will enable the Navy to augment military satellite communications by supporting mission requirements and by providing high-speed Internet access for as many as 5,000 military personnel onboard each aircraft carrier. The new terminals will replace existing Harris AN/WSC-8 terminals that have provided shipboard C-band communications for the Navy for more than 10 years.
May 21/08: CVG in Chantilly, VA received an indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quantity portable satellite communications contract from the US Navy’s Space and Naval Warfare Systems (SPAWAR) Center Charleston. This contract has a potential value of up to $441 million over 5 years. CVG will provide the Navy its integrated portable satellite communications terminals.