ADF TO ACQUIRE NEXT GENERATION SATELLITE TECHNOLOGY
Even as the ADF’s ongoing satellite-based communications programmes are winding their way through the acquisitions and roll out process, Defence is already taking the next steps as the future battlespace will be increasingly reliant on joint, multi-domain forces relying heavily on secure, high-bandwidth satellite-based communications systems for their information-heavy communications.
As we have already mentioned in previous issues of APDR, JP 9102 for Australia’s next-generation military SATCOM capabilities is now in motion. Also known as the Australian Defence SATCOM System (ASDSS), the project aims to deliver a system which will enable the joint command and control of deployed Joint Task Forces through resilient and responsive communications beyond the range and capacity of other communication systems.
According to the Defence Integrated Investment Plan (IIP) released in 2016, it is anticipated that $2-3 billion will be spent on JP 9102 between 2019 and 2029. Industry focus groups were convened as well as briefings for the RFI were conducted by Defence starting late 2018, and the RFI was listed on Austender in January this year, which closed in April.
Lieutenant-Colonel Mick Hose, who conducted the briefs, said that ASDSS will need to support point-to-point, hub-spoke and mesh network topologies providing duplex intra-theatre and strategic reach-back connectivity as well as simplex/broadcast connectivity.
The required primary coverage areas of the ASDSS are, as expected an area of the globe taking in Australia, all of Southeast and East Asia bounded by the Indian and Pacific Oceans, running in a straight line along 90° to 160° East longitude, and 70° North and 60° South latitudes. Key requirements of the system include level flexibility, with the capability needing to be able to be reconfigured in response to both geopolitical and emerging operational circumstances; and to develop and adapt to changing technology, threats and operational needs over its lifetime.
It will also need to have the agility to adapt and be reconfigured during missions for the user. This agility will be in two main areas: these being the ability to support reduced lead times (i.e. hours and days, not weeks) for network request and establishment for other forms of connectivity; and the ability to be responsive to support in-mission changes (i.e. minutes and hours, not days), especially for highly mobile users such as aircraft and Special Operations (e.g. more automation). System interoperability will also naturally be of key importance. For each identified SATCOM mission element, all four segments (Ground, Control, Space and the individual Terminals) must be interoperable with each other. The ASDSS has a broad option set characterised by:
- Rapidly evolving technologies
- Increasing demand for higher and multiple bands
- Increasing trend for communications satellites to adopt more complex orbits
- Increasing opportunities for partnering with industry or international partners
- Increased opportunities with peer space capabilities, not just SATCOM
- Considerations for Australian industry and the Australian Space Agency
- Considerations for significant investments made to date via JP 2008
And while the existing ADF “legacy” narrow-and wide-band SATCOM projects have come with their own troubles during the acquisitions and roll out processes, these will eventually roll into the ASDSS starting in the middle of the next decade to become a vital part of the new system. These include the Optus C1 payloads (JP 2008 Phase 3D), the IS-22 satellite narrow-band payload (JP 2008 Phase 5A), the WGS partnership (JP 2008 Phase 4) and the narrow-band SATCOM MoU with the U.S. DoD along with a range of commercial leases.
A range of related facilities in Australia will also come under the project, including the East and West Coast anchoring locations in Kapooka, NSW and Geraldton, WA, narrow-band control facilities in WA, ACT and NT, wide-band facilities primarily in the ACT, and a R&D facility in South Australia. APDR reached out to Defence to get an update to JP 9102 and any details they could provide following the close of the RFI, and this was their response: “Joint Capabilities Group’s Information Warfare Division (IWD) has benefited from 16 responses for a Request for Information (RFI) to support costed options development for Joint Project 9102 – the future Australian Defence Satellite Communications System (ASDSS).
The ASDSS is IWD’s planned capability based on the 2016 Defence White Paper recognition that operations are “reliant on space-based satellite systems to support our networked capabilities and to communicate” and that “priority will be given to strengthening the resilience and redundancy of satellite-based communications”.
It added: “While the details of the responses are commercially sensitive and cannot be shared, there were a number of reciprocal benefits for Defence and industry from the adoption of a collaborative RFI process, which commenced in September 2018 and concluded in April 2019. The collaborative approach was embraced by industry, and not only set the conditions for involvement of Australian industry, but also set the conditions for Defence and industry to develop a genuine understanding of military requirements and respective drivers.”
“Defence is planning on presenting capability options for Joint Project 9102 ASDSS to Government in 2020 in a First Pass submission as part of a rolling sub-programme approach. The capability options have been informed by significant input from Australian and international space industries, addressing questions posed by IWD on a range of options balancing own and operate, partnering and commercial leasing building blocks.”
“Pending guidance received at First Pass, Defence is planning on continuing the periodic updates and approvals to Government for the satellite communications sub-programme returning two years later for the first acquisition decision for Joint Project 9102. Planning for the first satellite access from 2026 and maturing into a resilient system by 2031, the ASDSS will enable the command and control of deployed Joint Task Forces through resilient and responsive communications beyond the range and capacity of other systems.”