By Warren Ferster

ARLINGTON, Va. — The U.S. Department of Defense should continue to use a mix of military- and commercially owned satellites to serve its wideband communications needs, even as it requires increasingly higher levels of protection against jamming and other threats that have emerged in recent years.

That is one of the overarching conclusions of the DoD’s just-completed Analysis of Alternatives (AoA) for wideband satellite communications, whose findings and recommendations are expected to shape the U.S. military satellite communications (MILSATCOM) architecture in the years ahead. The long-awaited study, completed by government and industry teams over an 18-month period, was delivered to the secretary of defense near the end of June.

Although the details of the AoA have yet to be released, DoD officials offered a glimpse of its broad outlines June 27 and 28 at the MilSatCom USA conference organized by SMi Group of London.

“Hybrid rules,” said Operations Research Analyst with the Office of the Secretary of Defense, Norman Yarbrough, during a presentation on the AoA June 27. “We found in the analysis … that there are needs for purpose-built [satellites] and there are opportunities to expand our use of commercial [satellites].”

Since being ordered by Congress in the National Defense Authorization Act of 2016, the AoA has loomed large over the long running debate over the future of the wideband component of the U.S. MILSATCOM architecture. At issue has been the right mix of Air Force and commercial satellites to meet the DoD’s ever-expanding appetite for connectivity.

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