Army to spend $11 billion for new satellites this decade

Army to spend $11 billion for new satellites this decade

NEW YORK'The military is using commercial satellite services for an estimated 80 percent of communications in Iraq. Such reliance "is almost a vulnerability," Army Maj. Gen. Dennis C. Moran said today at the Satellite Applications Technology Conference and Expo.

Moran, the Army's director of information operations for networks and space, said the Army will invest about $11 billion between now and 2010 on a series of Air Force satellite launches. He asked for industry help in designing new types of antennas and IP waveforms "for the best throughput and link closure. The military doesn't want a unique modem design," he said. "We want industry to design so we can take advantage of the commercial work."

The military satellites, however, will probably only fill half of the Army's need for ubiquitous, mobile bandwidth on demand for aircraft, vehicles and individual soldiers, he said.

"We have to figure out with industry how to buy commercial satellite time more efficiently. We want more bang for our buck with a Time Division Multiple Access architecture," Moran said. The service also needs to learn how to buy for the long term rather than the short term to get better prices, Moran said.

The four military satellite series to be launched include:

  • Wideband Gapfiller, beginning in 2005

  • Advanced Extremely High Frequency, around 2007

  • Mobile User Objective System, for cellularlike service with small handsets, around 2010

  • Transformational communications satellites, in the next decade.

The Iridium satellite constellation "has been an absolutely critical part of defense communications' but does not have enough bandwidth, Moran said. "We're in the middle of the digital transition right now to serve anyplace on the globe from space to mud. It's a unique connectivity challenge as the Army's workforce becomes mobile and is just like the civilian world, with cell phones stuck to their ears and going where they need to go."

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