The United States Army is searching for the satellite communications. However, there’s a catch. It is not just searching to purchase broadband for the troops who are in the field, but also “end to end” solutions and durable technology that can be installed in remote areas and deliver connectivity in hours. During a discussion panel at Satellite 2021 conference on September 8, Brigadier General Robert Collins, who serves as the executive program officer for the Army tactical networks, remarked, “We clearly need an expeditionary network for our tactical troops.”
The Army is looking for a new approach to purchase satellite services since there is so much new technology in private sector. According to Collins, rather than laying out the wish list and waiting for a response, it intends to see what the sector has to give first. “We’re going to do things a little differently this time.” The Army has encouraged commercial satellite operators, antenna makers, and integrators to demonstrate their ability to execute this objective. Collins’ office at the Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, is going to develop a solicitation for bids based on the outcomes of the demonstrations.
Even as the playing field widens and the sector adds extreme levels of the space-based network capacity, the industry’s ability to offer what the Army terms “satcom as a managed service” remains a point of contention. The Army issued a request for the information for the satcom services for the logistics network last year but has since broadened the scope of the market research “to comprehend how end-to-end satcom as managed service model could be able to support the Army’s strategic network as a whole,” according to the request. Commercial satellite-based communications that are integrated with gateways, ground systems, and user terminals are desired.
For the military, satcom as a service has not become a strange idea. In 2019, the Pentagon bought satellite provider Iridium’s satcom service as a managed service. The business was awarded a $738.5 million, 7-year deal to provide military users with satellite services from the low Earth orbit constellation.
On the other hand, the military now needs satcom services that include a mix of operators and satellites from the LEO and other orbits, as well as satellites that operate at various frequencies. This necessitates a more intricate network integration and interoperability in the ground systems and terminals.
Multi-layer, multi-band satcom services, according to Clare Grason, chief of Commercial Satellite Communications Office for US Space Force, are the means of the future. She remarked at the panel, “Going forward, we’re seeking to recreate the Iridium paradigm for greater commercial satcom collaborations.”
Grason’s office presently oversees $4.6 billion in contracts, the majority of which are for satellite bandwidth rather than managed services. She stated that commercial satcom would be acquired in the years ahead “as an inventory of functionalities” from which military users are going to be able to choose. She stated that the concept is currently being fine-tuned.