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Optimizing Command and Control in Multi-Domain Operations

advancements in satellite technology are revolutionizing command and control operations, enhancing multi-domain operations, and bolstering national security in the face of evolving threats

Command and Control has become one of the focal points in recent discussions on defense and national security. This is not surprising, given the strong emphasis on enhancing the effectiveness, agility, and resilience of all available assets to address threats as well as bolstering operational effectiveness in a world of increasing military competition. While the fundamental Command and Control concepts of organizing and directing military forces have been around for centuries, their significance and impact have grown exponentially with the convergence of three key technology categories – data creation, data analytics, and data transport.

The exponential growth in all three of these disciplines has created an unprecedented ability for joint forces to “sense, make sense of, and act” on information across all domains. Senior military leaders have been quick to take advantage of these capabilities to increase coordination between high level operational elements across all domains. Disruptive technology advances at the data transport level are now delivering this information advantage at the speed of relevance much closer to tactical units and operators.

From last resort to critical support

Satellite networks have long been vital to delivering communications to remote locations where terrestrial solutions were not an option, regions where infrastructure was limited or compromised, or where rapid deployment was necessary. In recent years, satellite networking’s increase in bandwidth, combined with advances in network infrastructure and security have significantly increased the capability of SatComs, making it a more cohesive element in larger end to end network strategies.

This increase in information delivery capability has also spawned significant developments in end user solutions designed to capitalize on this beyond-line-of-sight communications capability.

Bigger Pipes

High Throughput Satellites (HTS) revolutionized the satellite communication landscape by delivering substantially larger data pipes to users without compromising geographic coverage or terrestrial integration. Through a combination of advanced technology and innovative strategies, HTS systems deliver higher data transfer rates and significantly increased capacity. This throughput was critical as levels of data production exploded, and the operations at all levels became more reliant on rapid information analysis. However, HTS did much more than increase speeds. This new data transfer capability enabled enterprise connectivity applications via satellite, which were previously only possible (or at least practical) through terrestrial networks.

Key enablers to this throughput increase included employing frequency reuse, using higher frequency bands, and creating spot beams that provide focused, targeted coverage. Intelsat, for example, helped usher in a new era of innovative, tighter spot beams which target smaller geographic areas with exceptional precision. By concentrating the signal into these focused beams, Intelsat delivers substantially higher throughput even on smaller antennas. This means users can utilize critical applications over huge coverage areas with greater mobility options.

Greater Flexibility

Software-defined networking (SDN) and network virtualization are ushering in a new era of flexibility for satellite services, delivering benefits like faster speeds, improving applications, and enabling edge computing. SDN capabilities provide organizations unmatched flexibility and agility in managing their satellite networks and shifting capacity based on changing customer requirements. Through programmable software interfaces and virtualization, satellite operators can dynamically allocate resources, move beams, reroute traffic, and adjust network configurations on-demand. SDN empowers satellite operators to allocate resources on-the-fly, optimize network performance, and respond to changing user demands promptly. This adaptability delivers a more responsive, customizable, and efficient satellite service which expedites Command and Control functions, where rapid decision-making, secure communication, and adaptability are essential, improving overall operational effectiveness.

Transport Diversification

Dynamic and programmable management of satellite networks opened the door to incorporate Multi-Layer Communications Systems into a seamless network fabric.

Intelsat dynamically and intelligently allocates bandwidth on-demand across satellite orbits (GEO/LEO), bands (Ku, Ka), and terrestrial, mobile, and other wireless service providers (WiFi, LTE, 3G/4G/5G). A Multi-Layer network seamlessly connects warfighters and Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) or High-Altitude Platform Systems (HAPS) in an advanced and future-proofed all-domain network ecosystem.

This network diversification increases redundancy and network availability, mitigates the threat of jamming or interference, all while combining the best options from various orbits into one solution.

Networks Can Be Enhanced, But Security Must Remain Constant

Perhaps the most critical aspect of improved Command and Control through enhanced satellite capability is end to end network security. Satellite networks are simultaneously becoming more critical to Command and Control operations, and more sophisticated. This makes them higher value targets to adversaries, and potentially creates more vectors of attack. While enhanced satellite networks have tremendous potential to improve situational awareness and accelerate decision making, it is crucial they are deployed and managed without compromising security. Operators like Intelsat have the ability to deliver flexible, high throughput, multi-orbit networks while maintaining end to end network security, and support functions like Transmission Security (TranSec).

Bringing Command and Control to the Operator Level

The improved functionality and adaptability of satellite communication are unlocking new opportunities for connectivity, bridging the digital divide, and ensuring reliable communication in austere environments and maritime scenarios. These new capabilities are elevating Command and Control at the leadership level, and are creating environments to develop and deploy solutions, which leverage improved Command and Control at the operator level.

Intelsat, OneWeb Technologies and Kymeta recently demonstrated secure, interoperable, GEO/LEO connectivity at the Satellite 2024 show in Washington D.C. This multi-path demonstration utilized the new KymetaTM Osprey u8 flat panel terminal. This solution provides resilient multi-layered connectivity to support Command and Control applications with high-quality no-fail networked communications on the move and pause (COTM/COTP) globally.

This capability is not limited to operational C2. Satcom Direct, R4 Integration and Intelsat have collaborated to develop a fully customizable Roll-on/Roll-off (RO/RO) satellite communications capability for C-130 aircraft. The RO/RO kit can be installed in less than 60 minutes, and once activated delivers full in-flight broadband capability to troops aboard the aircraft. This improved Command and Control capability is particularly beneficial to troop transports where conditions can change drastically between departure and arrival in theater.

This innovative solution provides troops with the most relevant, up to date information available to help keep them safe and maximize mission success.

To deliver even greater portability to Command and Control applications, solutions like the Intelsat Portable 30 auto point terminal and SatCube satellite terminals are delivering enhanced communications to troops through mobile, easy to deploy manpacks. These terminals are integrated Comms-on-the-Pause devices, which utilize Intelsat’s FlexMove service for secure broadband in a form factor allowing troops to easily take advantage of enhanced Satcom capability anywhere they need it for immediate situational awareness and improved coordination and decision making.

The combination of improved connectivity, coverage, resiliency, security, and interoperability of today’s satellite networks empower users at the tactical edge with more capability than ever before. Equally as important, the resulting performance and flexibility of satellite networking has served as a catalyst to encourage the development of end user solutions that would not have been possible with previous generations. The combination of network capability and improved mobile devices is allowing military leaders to take advantage of their data collection, processing and exploitation capability to drastically improve soldiers’ ability to identify threats and opportunities, improve coordination and operations, and ultimately better accomplish their mission.

The author, Rory Welch, is Vice President International Government at Intelsat

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