Pros cite source diversity as key to satcom resiliency


By Warren Ferster

ARLINGTON, Va. — Access to satellites operating in different orbits and bandwidths will help keep the U.S. military connected in an increasingly contested environment where information can be the difference between victory and defeat, industry and defense officials said.

Communications satellites, both government and commercially operated, are subject to an growing array of jamming and even kinetic threats from near-peer U.S. adversaries, these officials said. In this environment, diversification promotes resiliency while complicating any adversary’s service disruption plans.

“We need diversity – we need a wide range of diversity,” said Kimberly Morris, satellite communications operations division head at the U.S. Naval Network Warfare Command.

Speaking June 26 here at the 4th annual Milsatcom USA conference sponsored by the SMi Group, Morris said that diversity includes satellites operating in medium Earth orbit (MEO) and low Earth orbit (LEO) as well as in traditional geostationary orbits. Use of different frequencies also is critical, she said.

“What I’m trying to do is put our adversaries on the horns of a dilemma,” Morris said. “You go after our [military-owned] systems, I’ve got something else that I can get to. Historically, with a lot of the weapon systems that are brought to bear in the modern age, it’s not the primary system that has been a hero, it’s the secondary system, because the enemy puts so much effort into taking out that primary system.”

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Peter Hoene

Peter Hoene, president and chief executive of Reston, Va.-based SES Government Solutions, the U.S. government services arm of satellite operator SES, said that just between SES and its top competitors, there are some 150 commercial satellites in geostationary orbit. This gives the military options in case signals from the U.S. Air Force’s workhorse Wideband Global Satcom satellites are jammed, thus complicating the targeting calculus of any adversary, he said.

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