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.
In February 2010, a EUR 280 million contract launched the Athena-Fidus (Access on THeatres for European allied forces NAtions-French Italian Dual Use Satellite) satellite program. The program is similar to the concept behind the US/Australian WGS, aiming to complement hardened satellite systems with a non-hardened broadband system. The satellite was launched in 2014.
France’s recent scramble to find the satellite bandwidth required to operate its Heron/Harfang UAVs in Afghanistan illustrates the project’s immediate military relevance. Once operational, the Athena-Fidus system will be used by the French, Belgian and Italian armed forces, as well as the civil protection services of France and Italy.
Long-endurance UAVs like the MQ-9 Reaper may be able to take off using line-of-sight controls, but many of their missions depend on satellite bandwidth at some point. Those satellite bandwidth expenses add up, as militaries are forced to supplement their own constellations with commercial providers. The USAF thinks they’ve found a way to cut those costs, without adding to the load on military constellations.
A quick look at almost any modern warship shows a bewildering array of gear on its mast and upper surfaces. These “topside apertures” serve an array of functions, from communications, to data transmission, to electronic listening and defense. Not only do they disrupt ship smoothness, and hence radar profiles, when installed, but they can also be extremely difficult to integrate together so that object A’s transmissions aren’t interfering with critical service B. While firms like Thales in Europe pursue “integrated modular mast” technologies, the US Navy is aiming to go one step beyond. They’re funding “Integrated Topside” R&D to go beyond just a pre-packaged array, and turn all of these little bolt-ons into one common, smooth-running, and upgradeable basic architecture.
InTop for surface ships will be based on AESA radar technology, and aims to become an innovative, scalable suite of electronic warfare, information operations, and line-of-sight communications hardware and software. Its performance goals are to improve ships’ anti-radar profiles, increase communications bandwidth, and resolve electromagnetic interference and compatibility issues…
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.
Pentagon contracts occasionally refer to the Global Broadcast Services (GBS), a system linked to the Wideband SATCOM program. A variant was first fielded in Bosnia during 1996, and special nodes were also set up in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. It sounds almost like a form of global satellite TV – which is close, but not quite right. GBS is not intended to replace existing MILSATCOM (MILitary SATellite COMmunications) systems in any way. Instead, GBS uses a form of “push and store” to distribute high-bandwidth information for local relay, thereby saving critical two-way military satellite communications systems from having to handle every field request.
The other thing that makes GBS so attractive is the ability to provide high-volume data directly into 18-inch antennas, allowing streaming to and storage in devices that can move with units in the field. The GBS “pushes” a high volume of packaged data to these widely dispersed, low-cost receive terminals, whose function resembles the set-top smart cable TV storage box or TiVO used at home.
The 21st century has seen a quiet transformation of the UAE’s armed forces. Advanced AWACS airborne early warning planes and air and missile defense systems are just the outward signs of a push from a collection of purchased weapon systems, to an integrated defense force that can cope with the most modern threats.
Making that happen requires more than just planes, or missiles. It requires extensive back-end systems that help turn information from advanced radars and airborne surveillance into a coherent whole, and allow command staff to direct battles based on that information. DID explains the larger picture and where things stand now, as the UAE continues its strong Command, Control, Computing, & Communications (C4) push.
iGovTech created Team TACLAN, based in Tampa, FL, to execute the contract, which included additional industry and academic partners. Until a 2012 award appeared to have placed TACLAN’s near-term future in other hands…
In late November 2012, Raytheon announced a $600+ million contract to deliver a national-level Command, Control, Communications, Computers and Intelligence (C4I) system to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Raytheon Network Centric Systems was awarded the deal as a Direct Commercial Sale, which means that the Saudi Ministry of Defense will manage the buy and the implementation project themselves. This is in contrast to the Foreign Military Sale process, which routes contract negotiations and management through a selected department of the US military.
None of this is any kind of magic. Poor command and poor training, coupled with the best C4I system money can buy, just means that your military can watch itself lose conventional fights in near-real time. Having said that, a system that removes some of the “fog of war” can help a force possessing basic or better competence, and national-level C4I is critical to any nation considering missile defense. So, what do the Saudis want?
In June 2012, Lockheed Martin’s Information Systems & Global Solutions Division in Manassas, VA won a competition, transferring the keystone GSM-O IT services contract away from SAIC, a 15-year incumbent. GSM-O pays for the worldwide support services necessary to carry out day-to-day operations of the US military’s Global Information Grid networks and related services, and to update them with new technologies. The contract could be worth up to $4.6 billion over 7 years, making it a major win for Lockheed Martin, and a big loss for SAIC.
So, what is the USA’s Global Information Grid? And how will this contract work?