Date: May 6, 2020 | Outlet: Defense News | BY: Theresa Hitchens   

WASHINGTON: Defense Secretary Mark Esper has ordered the military services to look to the Space Development Agency’s developing “data transport” satellites to connect their separate command and control systems for future all-domain operations, says SDA Director Derek Tournear.

Speaking at a webinar today sponsored by C4ISR, Tournear said Esper has “put out the edict” in the current Defense Planning Guidance — which informs the services and DoD agencies planning for the annual budget cycle — that the “transport layer will be the integrating aspect” of Joint All-Domain Command and Control (JADC2).

“If you look at JADC2, each of the services have their own way to incorporate that,” he explained, “and JADC2 is just … a way to make sure they all have the same networking infrastructure to talk to one another, essentially.”

“We plug directly into it, as the space layer, to pull all of that communication together,” he added.

Tournear said Michael Zatman, assistant director for FNC3 (Fully Networked Command, Control and Communications) at DoD’s undersecretariat of research and engineering, is in charge of coordinating efforts to ensure that service C3 efforts can seamlessly communicate — including with communications and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) satellites.

The service efforts to develop their own C2 systems to enable all-domain operations include:

The Air Force’s high-priority Advanced Battle Management System (ABMS) that is leading the way in developing technologies to underpin JADC2, and involves input from other services and the combatant commands via a four-month cycle of demonstrations. (The ABMS family of systems does not include development of new satellites, rather networking technologies for improving connectivity among different sensors including satellites.);

The Army’s TITAN mobile ground station that the service envisions as fusing sensor data from multiple ISR satellites — including both national security and commercial — into a common operational picture for battlefield commanders. SDA already has plans to use TITAN to push data from the transport layer out to the tactical edge; and,

The Navy’s Navy Integrated Fire Control-Counter Air (NIFC-CA), which links airborne sensor platforms to surface ships. NIFC-CA allows E-2D Advanced Hawkeye radar planes and F-35C Joint Strike Fighters to spot enemy aircraft or incoming missiles, then transmit the data to Aegis cruisers and destroyers (or even Littoral Combat Ships) that can then fire on targets the ships can’t see with their own radars.

SDA issued its first draft Request for Proposal (RFP), focused on the data transport layer in late March. The RFP describes a Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellite constellation designed to allow low-latency communications (that is, with little lag time between the sender and the receiver). It will use optical cross-links between satellites, and link to users on the ground via the venerable Link 16 system used widely by the services and allies, and the Integrated Broadcast System (IBS) that carries Ultra-High Frequency (UHF) communications and is compatible with systems used by the Intelligence Community.

A final version of the RFP is due out May 1, and will take account of industry comments. SDA envisions the first set of 20 satellites being launched in 2022, what SDA calls “Tranche Zero,” with $100 million in the agency’s 2021 budget for development of those satellites.