JP 2008 – heading for the Projects of Concern list.

JP 2008 is a multi-phase satellite communications project that is one of the key pieces of the Network Centric Communications jigsaw puzzle and has now encountered a major problem. It is centered around the US Wideband Global SATCOM (WGS) system, which is a constellation of satellites – six are in orbit out of a possible 10 – designed to provide secure global military communications in the X and Ka bands. Some innovative Defence thinking led to a 2007 Memorandum of Understanding with the US that would give Australia access to the constellation until 2026 in exchange for funding the 6th satellite for around $1 billion.

The total project budget is around $1.65 billion and progress to date has been steady, if a little slow at times, with several early phases successfully concluded. However, one of the key parts is Phase 3F, the construction of a major ground station at Geralton in Western Australia – presumably located near a substantial Defence Signals Intelligence facility at that location – has hit a major obstacle and is seriously behind schedule. 3F also involves the delivery of a critical satellite network management system, which will interface deployed forces accessing the WGS constellation with the Defence Wide Area Network and Australian Defence Force Headquarters and support elements.

It seems that there is now a contractual dispute between the prime contractor BAE Systems and the Defence Materiel Organisation that needs to be urgently resolved. Asked to comment on the schedule, a Departmental spokesperson explained:

“JP2008 Phase 3F – the contractor, BAE Systems, has experienced significant delays in delivering the Satellite Ground Station – West (SGS-W) near Geraldton WA. The DMO is currently working closely with BAE through a schedule re-baseline activity. The re‑baselining activity is directed at identifying and remediating the root causes of BAE’s delay.”

Asked to elaborate and to comment on speculation that Defence itself might be partially at fault, the spokesperson said:

“The Contractor did not follow its system engineering process, sourced components and constructed SGS-W with significant technical non – conformance issues. These issues have been compounded by the Contractor’s lack of expertise with WGS Ground Stations. WGS requirements for Ground Stations are unambiguously defined by the US Government and are stringently enforced, requiring DMO to insist on strict conformance to specifications.”

Turning to BAE Systems, they declined to provide details to APDR, responding simply:
“We are working closely with our customer to ensure that we are responsive to the project requirements and to deliver the project to the customer’s satisfaction.

“We are confident that BAE Systems is delivering a world class capability to the Australian Defence Force.”
Mind you, even if a company believes it is doing the right thing it is hardly likely to come out and publicly disagree with its only customer. In this particular case it is believed that BAE Systems has felt frustrated by a lack of progress in negotiations as the DMO has not shown a great deal of flexibility – which indeed is hinted at in their comment that requirements for the ground station have been “unambiguously” defined, not by Australia but by the United States.

Because of the critical nature of the project and the lack of progress in discussions – which are believed to have been stalled for months – it is increasingly likely that JP 2008 will be placed on the Projects Of Concern (POC) list as a way of focusing everyone’s minds on reaching a solution. The DMO would only say that the status of the project regarding a possible listing as a POC “has not been finalized”. Defence would not comment on whether it has suspended payments to BAE Systems saying this was a commercial-in-confidence matter. However, previous experience tells us this is likely and – if so – it would mean that the various subcontractors such as Clearbox Systems are unlikely to be receiving funds.

To broader activities, the Department provided an overview of the current phases of the project:
JP2008 Phase 3E – MILSATCOM ground infrastructure

• The acquisition phase of the project is complete.
• All Maritime and Land terminals and network components have been delivered.
• All terminal platforms have achieved Initial Operational Release.
• All logistics products have been delivered and transitioned to sustainment.

JP2008 Phase 3F – Australian Defence Force (ADF) Satellite Communications (SATCOM) Terrestrial Enhancements

• The project is in the acquisition delivery stage for the new Satellite Anchor Station in Western Australian.
• Obsolescence issues are also being addressed under the prime contract for the operational Satellite Anchor Station at HMAS Harman, Canberra.

JP2008 Phase 3H – Wideband Terrestrial Terminals

• The project is in contract for the procurement and support of terminals for use on the Wideband Global Satellite System (WGS).
• The project has delivered the initial 25 satellite terminals the to various ADF units across Australia.

JP2008 Phase 4 – Next Generation SATCOM Capability

• The majority of the project is governed by a Joint US/AUS Program established under a Memorandum Of Understanding (MOU) to partner in the US Wideband Global SATCOM system.

• The WGS 6 satellite, which Australia funded, has been launched and now is fully operational.
• Interim Satellite anchor systems on the Australian Eastern and Western Seaboard to provide use of WGS capabilities are operational.
• The project has delivered the majority of its acquisition scope.

JP2008 Phase 5A – Indian Ocean Region UHF SATCOM

• The project is in the acquisition delivery stage.
• The IS-22 Ultra High Frequency (UHF) Satellite has been launched and is operational.
• The project is currently delivering the ground based UHF Network Control System.

JP2008 Phase 5B1 –Transportable Land Terminals

• Project has achieved First Pass approval and is in the Capability Development Phase.

JP2008 Phase 5B2 – Wideband Terrestrial Infrastructure

• Project has achieved First Pass approval and is in the Capability Development Phase.

Access to high bandwidth satellite capacity is extremely important for any advanced military organization that needs to conduct operations over large distances. The amount of sensor data that now needs to be sent – especially streaming video – is vast and continuing to grow rapidly with each generation of improvement in sensor technology. While the capacity of the WGS constellation is not infinite – each satellite is able to route 2.1 to 3.6 Gbps of data – it is a generational improvement over the previous DSCS III series of satellites.

Satellite builder Boeing says of its highly successful product:

“WGS supports the Department of Defense’s warfighting information exchange requirements, enabling execution of tactical command and control, communications, and computers; intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (C4ISR); battle management; and combat support information. WGS also augments the current Ka-band Global Broadcast Service (on UHF F/O satellites) by providing additional information broadcast capabilities.”

Mark Spiwak, MILSATCOM program director with Boeing explained the current status to APDR:

“WGS-6 was handed over to the customer in early December 2013, just 71 days after we handed over WGS-5. WGS-7 through WGS-10 are currently in production in Boeing’s Satellite Development Centre. WGS-7 will be integrated over the next month and will be prepared to start its initial functional test program.”

In Australia, the project that will have the greatest need of this technology is JP 2072, which will provide a networked communications system for all land-based elements of the ADF. Defence did not comment directly on whether the schedule for this project would be affected by delays on JP 2008 3F, but confirmed the linkage between the two:

“JP 2072 will deliver the deployed network switching equipment that will switch the data being provided by the satellite communication system bearers acquired under the JP2008 Program. JP2072 is also supplying the deployed tactical communications and the link from these bearers into the SATCOM network.”

The goal of fully networked land forces by 2020 is critically dependent on these projects – and BAE Systems will be under a lot of pressure to successfully deliver JP 2008 3F.





Previous articleAustal Lays Keel for 6th Cape Class Patrol Boat
Next articleJapan buys Thales Bushmasters


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here