Troops to tune in to Super Bowl via GBS

Global Broadcast Service will beam the game to U.S. forces stationed throughout the world

Some spinoffs from military technologies – the Jeep comes to mind – turn out to be economy boosters. Others turn out to be morale boosters.

Thanks to the Global Broadcast Service, a satellite communications system developed to deliver imagery to troops for warfighting efforts, U.S. forces stationed anywhere in world will be able to watch Super Bowl XLIII this Sunday – even those on a mountaintop in Afghanistan or aboard a submarine under the surface of the Pacific Ocean.

According to Guy DuBois, vice president of operational technologies and solutions at Raytheon, the prime contractor for the Global Broadcast Service, the system was originally developed after the Persian Gulf War.

“The origin was after Gen. [Norman] Schwarzkopf came back from the first Gulf War and made his very public pronouncement that the intelligence community didn't serve him well,” DuBois told GCN. “One of the things that he complained about was the lack of the ability to get imagery.” DuBois, who was responsible for satellite imagery during his 26 years with the CIA, said the challenge was taken seriously and the GBS was the result. The initial deployment was used shortly thereafter in Bosnia. “It was a big success,” DuBois said.

“What we've discovered is that any piece of information that is a huge bandwidth hog is often more efficiently transmitted through the broadcast mechanism than through command channels or point-to-point communications,” DuBois added.

GBS isn't used just for imagery sent from unmanned drones, either. DuBois notes that GBS is used to deliver a variety of material to the troops. “Probably about a third of the channels on any given day is used simply for long-distance training,” he said. “If you happen to be sitting in Kabul now and you want to take a course in accounting, it can be scheduled. We can broadcast it to you.”

The Pentagon began using GBS to broadcast the Super Bowl into a few remote locations in 2002. “This year there is really no practical reason why any of the 350,000 troops overseas would not have access to the Super Bowl,” DuBois said.

In many cases, troops will watch the broadcast on televisions. But for those in especially remote locations, the IP-based transmission will be viewed on laptop computers with directional antennas.

About the Author

Patrick Marshall is a freelance technology writer for GCN.

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