Defence to boost satellite communication capabilities

Partnership on US WGS satellite system will help Defence cut commercial satellite lease costs and better manage growing demand for voice, data and video services

The Australian Defence Force (ADF) is to up its satellite communications capabilities through a new partnership with the US.

The partnership will see the ADF fund a sixth satellite in the United States’ Wideband Global SATCOM (satellite communication) constellation, also known as WGS.

In doing so, Australia will gain access to a military satellite communication (MILSATCOM) capability beyond the life and communication range of the Optus C1 satellite the ADF currently uses for domestic communication.

A Defence spokesperson declined to give specific details on the enhanced capabilities and communications capacity of the next generation satellite system, but said Australia used a mix of commercial satellite leases and a military payload on the Optus C1 satellite for its communication needs.

“Optus C1 provides SATCOM (satellite communication) coverage over Australia and leased SATCOM services are used to provide wideband SATCOM support to the ADF elsewhere in the world,” the spokesperson said.

“The WGS system will provide global SATCOM coverage to the ADF and communications capacity orders of magnitude greater than that provided by the current SATCOM system.”

The new capability will also help Defence cut down its ICT costs, the spokesperson said.

“Use of WGS allows Defence to reduce the operating budget associated with commercial SATCOM leases,” the spokesperson said. “The ADF has increasing capacity demands for SATCOM-based voice, data and video services.”

Prior to the partnership with the US, the Defence Science and Technology Organisation (DSTO) carried out modelling and analysis of current and projected ADF satellite communications requirements, including those requirements arising from the introduction of new capabilities detailed in the 2009 Defence Capability Plan. The DSTO modelling characterised the WGS system in terms of bandwidth, power, beam numbers and coverage.

“This assisted Defence capability planners and acquisition managers to confirm that access to a portion of the global system would meet current and future ADF SATCOM requirements and assess the technical merits and value for money proposition to which Defence would commit when joining the program,” the spokesperson said.

In September Defence flagged that it was to shortly commence refreshing its core management information system for personnel management, personnel management key solution (PMKeyS), in an effort to better manage risk and add “significant and sustainable benefits” to the organisation.

In June Defence signaled that it would launch a $700 million ICT reform program to improve the visibility if ICT spend and build an improved Defence information environment to support both Defence war fighting and business reform objectives through to 2030.

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Tags department of defencesatellite communicationSATCOMOptus C1Wideband Global SATCOM

More about Australian Defence ForceDefence Science and Technology OrganisationOptus

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