Throughout history, the forces on the battlefield that had better communications and situational awareness emerged victorious. Technology has advanced tremendously over the centuries, but that fact remains just as true today.
U.S. Forces enjoy a dramatic advantage today in C4ISR (Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance) in every theater across the globe. An important enabler of that superiority is outlined in a recent SatNews article focused on how rapidly Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) flight hours increased in 2014.
With operations winding down in the Middle East, it might not seem intuitive that reliance on UAS flights would actually increase. But, as IGC President Kay Sears talked about almost two years ago, there is often an inverse relationship between boots on the ground and ISR needs.
According to SatNews, a big proportion of the increased flight hours is being borne by the Air Force’s Global Hawk UAS:
“The UAS series flew 781 hours from September 10-16. The Air Force’s RQ-4 Global Hawk flew 87 percent of the missions; the U.S. Navy’s Broad Area Maritime Surveillance- Demonstration (BAMS-D) aircraft and NASA’s Global Hawk hurricane research asset flew the rest. HALE’s far-reaching weekly record surpasses the company’s previous weekly flight record of 665 hours set in February.”
There is technology right around the corner that will greatly strengthen the ISR provided by these flights. Next-generational high-throughput Intelsat EpicNG satellites will be able to provide huge performance and flexibility enhancements over what is available today. And inherent to the EpicNG design are new anti-jam capabilities never before seen on commercial satellites, furthering safeguarding the C4ISR advantage for our forces.
The Global Hawks will be able to transmit at rates up to 274 Mbps on the upcoming Intelsat EpicNG satellites, a substantial increase from transmission rates currently possible on existing satellites. This throughput is achieved using approximately 100 MHz of capacity.
The vast amount of ISR data is carried by commercial satellite networks. Many Global Hawks are already in the air almost 24 hours every day. Through continued technological innovation, we can make the commercial bandwidth “pipe” larger so these flights can deliver more intelligence per hour. This will help us to maintain our current C4ISR advantage over potential adversaries.