Latest updates[?]: Lockheed Martin announced that the AEHF-5 protected communication satellite is now in transfer orbit. The launch on August 8 was successful and the AEHF-5 is now responding to the US Air Force's 4th Space Operations Squadron’s commands. According to Lockheed, the squadron began "flying" the satellite shortly after it separated from its United Launch Alliance Atlas V 551 rocket approximately 5 hours and 40 minutes after the rocket's successful 6:13 am ET liftoff. The Advanced Extremely High Frequency 5 or AEHF-5 satellite is the fifth addition to the Air Force’s Advanced Extremely High Frequency constellation. The satellites are built by Lockheed Martin and are used to relay secure communications for the Armed Forces of the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, and the Netherlands. The first AEHF satellite was launched in 2006 and the most recent, the AEHF-4 in October 2018. The sixth and final AEHF satellite is expected to launch later this year.
The USA’s new Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF) satellites will support twice as many tactical networks as the current Milstar II satellites, while providing 10-12 times the bandwidth capacity and 6 times the data rate transfer speed. With the cancellation of the higher-capacity TSAT program, AEHF will form the secure, hardened backbone of the Pentagon’s future Military Satellite Communications (MILSATCOM) architecture, with a mission set that includes nuclear command and control. Its companion Family of Advanced Beyond-line-of-sight Terminals (FAB-T) program will give the US military more modern, higher-bandwidth receiving capabilities, and add more flexibility on the front lines. The program has international components, and partners currently include Britain, Canada, and the Netherlands.
This article offers a look at the AEHF system’s rationale and capabilities, while offering insight into some of the program’s problems, and an updated timeline covering over $5 billion worth of contracts since the program’s inception.
On Sept 30/08, “The USA’s National Cybersecurity Initiative” focused on the belated but growing reaction to recent uses of cyber-attacks as an adjunct to warfare, and by the growing rate of attempted intrusions into American systems from countries like China. “Secure Semiconductors: Sensible, or Sisiphyean?” discussed the growing realization within the US military that massive use of commercial electronics, coupled with the complexity of modern chip designs, made it very difficult to be sure that “backdoors” and other security flaws weren’t being inserted into high-end American defense equipment. It’s a difficult conundrum, because commercial chips offer orders of magnitude improvements in cost and performance. Hence DARPA’s “Trust in IC” program, which hopes to crack the problem and offer the best of both worlds.
On Oct 2/08, Business Week’s in-depth article “Dangerous Fakes” claimed that a key component of the silicon security threat might be even simpler:
“The American military faces a growing threat of potentially fatal equipment failure – and even foreign espionage – because of counterfeit computer components used in warplanes, ships, and communication networks. Fake microchips flow from unruly bazaars in rural China to dubious kitchen-table brokers in the U.S. and into complex weapons. Senior Pentagon officials publicly play down the danger, but government documents, as well as interviews with insiders, suggest possible connections between phony parts and breakdowns… Potentially more alarming than either of the two aircraft episodes are hundreds of counterfeit routers made in China and sold to the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines over the past four years. These fakes could facilitate foreign espionage, as well as cause accidents. The U.S. Justice Dept. is prosecuting the operators of an electronics distributor in Texas – and last year obtained guilty pleas from the proprietors of a company in Washington State – for allegedly selling the military dozens of falsely labeled routers… Referring to the seizure of more than 400 fake routers so far, Melissa E. Hathaway, head of cyber security in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, says: “Counterfeit products have been linked to the crash of mission-critical networks, and may also contain hidden ‘back doors’ enabling network security to be bypassed and sensitive data accessed…”
August 19/15: A Chinese company has been accused of selling counterfeit Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar systems, using a design taken from Israel’s Elta Systems. NAV Technology Company is believed to be selling a version of Elta Systems’ EL/M-2052 system, an airborne fire control radar capable of tracking dozens of targets simultaneously. The company also offers other products thought to be taken from US designs, including a copy of the GBU-39 precision munition.
Army Intelligence and Security Command at Fort Belvoir, VA issues up to $7.2 billion worth of indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quantity contracts for global intelligence support services. Each contractor will compete for task orders, and receive a minimum guarantee of just $5,000. Funding and work location will be determined with each order, and will run from Sept 11/14 to Sept 11/19.
There were 2 categories of winners: larger firms, and small business set-asides…
The USA’s Global Positioning System service remains free, but the European Union is spending billions to create an alternative under their own control. In addition to civilian GPS (the Open Service), services to be offered include a Safety of Life Service (SoL) for civil aviation and search and rescue, a paid Commercial Service with accuracy greater than 1 meter, plus a Public Regulated Service (PRS) for use by security authorities and governments. PRS/SoL aims to offer Open Service quality, with added robustness against jamming and the reliable detection of problems within 10 seconds.
Organizational issues and shortfalls in expected progress pushed the “Galileo” project back from its originally intended operational date of 2007 to 2014/15. After a public-private partnership model failed, the EU gained initial-stage approval for its plan to finance the program with tax dollars instead of the expected private investments. Political issues were overcome in 2007 by raiding other EU accounts for the billions required, but by 2011, it became clear that requests for billions more in public funds were on the way. Meanwhile, doubts persist in several quarters about Galileo’s touted economic model. Security concerns regarding China’s early involvement, and its potential Beidou-2/Compass projects, have been equally persistent, and there is good reason to expect that the constellation has a military purpose. On a European political and contractual level, however, Galileo is now irreversible.
This article offers background, players, developments, contracts, and in-depth research links for Galileo, as well as linked EU programs like GIOVE and EGNOS.
The United Arab Emirates’ AED 3.4 billion (EUR 703 million/ $925 million) “Falcon Eye” optical observation satellites are meant to provide a wholly new capability to their military by 2018, and represented the most advanced optics France had ever sold to another country. France’s CNES cites 0.7m / 2′ 4″ spatial resolution for the Pleiades Class at nadir, and a field of view of 20 km. EADS DS/ Astrium touts up to 100 km x 100 km in strip mapping mode.
The deal has had a rough road lately, and is currently hung up in re-negotiations…
British naval theorist Sir Julian Corbett saw the navy’s proper role as “directly or indirectly either to secure the command of the sea or to prevent the enemy from securing it.” Airpower plays a prominent role in both of those missions. In 1996, Britain began a program to rebuild their existing Nimrod MR2 maritime patrol planes to the MRA4 standard with new wings, new engines, and new internal technologies and mission systems.
Unfortunately, that program has faced a series of budget cuts, stalls, and conditions that have reduced the program from 21 aircraft, to 12, to 9 – and then to 0. In 2010, Britain decided to give up fixed-wing maritime patrol and anti-submarine aircraft entirely, then scrapped all of its Nimrod MR2s. Its MR1 electronic eavesdropping planes followed, in June 2011. Leaving the burning question: now what? Periodic “reminders” from Russia and other entities have kept that question very current, indeed.
The Institute for Defense Analysis in Alexandria, VA recently received a 5-year indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quantity contract worth up to $888.8 million, for research and analysis from the 3 Federally Funded Research and Development Centers (FFRDC) they run. Just to give you some of the flavor, IDA’s recent Research Notes [PDF] publication includes “The Saddam Tapes: The Inner Workings Of A Tyrant’s Regime 1978-2001”, as well as briefings covering cloud computing security, rates and causes of rotorcraft casualties from 2001 – 2009, etc.
The RQ-4 Global Hawks isn’t a full successor to the famous U-2 spy plane just yet. It’s close, however, and some people have described the HALE (High Altitude, Long Endurance) UAV as the equivalent of having a photo satellite on station. Flying at 60,000 feet for 30-40+ hours at a time, the jet-powered UAV uses sophisticated radars and other sensors to monitor developments on land, sea, and air over an area of about 40,000 square miles/ 100,000 square km. Reported image resolution has been described as 1 foot or less. The USA has made effective use of Global Hawks since their formal unveiling in 1997, which has prompted interest from other countries. NATO’s AGS system will deploy Global Hawk UAVs as well.
Outside of NATO, however, sales have been much trickier. Four issues have worked to hold up potential sales – 2 of which are acknowledged openly, and 2 of which tend to play out very much behind the scenes. South Korea ran afoul of all 4 of those issues, when the USA rejected their application to buy 4 of the larger RQ-4B UAVs in 2006. Now, it seems, the tide has turned in the USA, but South Korea is less sure. What’s certain is that the USA will be fielding its own Global Hawks over the peninsula. What’s less certain is whether South Korea will buy some of its own.
As fiscal year 2012 came to a close Congress bought time with a continuing resolution. And as the new civil year started, Congress begrudgingly applied a short-term patch to avoid the fiscal cliff, while the President eventually signed a FY13 authorization bill containing language he had threatened to veto for months. By March 2013 everyone seemed to capitulate to wrap up appropriations for the rest of the year. But FY13 appropriations ended up including sequestration, an outcome that few had predicted since the Budget Control Act was passed in 2011. The FY14 budget cycle then started late, with only dim hope of a more reasonable outcome.
Desk Iron Dome. Make it happen. Ash is going to be SO jealous!
If you throw pens at Leon Panetta’s desk, the small Iron Dome replica he received as a gift from Israeli Minister of Defense Ehud Barak won’t shoot to intercept. Panetta hid his disappointment gracefully but he would not say whether the anti-rocket system (marketed at full size by Raytheon in the US) would end up on the FY14 budget request. Joint press conference transcript.