• Maj. Gen. James J. Mingus, USA, commanding general, 82nd Airborne Division, speaks at AFCEA’s TechNet Augusta conference. Photo by Michael Carpenter
     Maj. Gen. James J. Mingus, USA, commanding general, 82nd Airborne Division, speaks at AFCEA’s TechNet Augusta conference. Photo by Michael Carpenter

The Military Downside to a Global Mesh Network

August 23, 2018
By George I. Seffers
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The big data problem may be about to blow up.

The world is on the verge of a space-based global mesh network that could provide full-motion video of the entire planet, and that could pose problems for the military.

Army Maj. Gen. James Mingus, 82nd Airborne Division commanding general, told the audience at the AFCEA TechNet Augusta conference in Augusta, Georgia, that because of the hundreds of microsatellites being launched into low-Earth orbit, “We are right on the cusp … of establishing a true, space-based global mesh network.” According to estimates he has seen, 800 to 1,000 such satellites “will have initially established that space-based global mesh network." Between 10,000 and 20,000 satellites will provide a “very robust” space-based global mesh network, he added.

The general questioned how long it will be before those satellites all have cameras hanging off of them. “We’ll live in a world where you’ve got this communications architecture that is truly there all the time but now full-motion video of the entire planet all the time is available to anyone,” he warned. “That sounds great from a commercial perspective, but how about from a threat or an enemy’s perspective? We think space, cyber, land, air, and maritime are contested now. It’s going to make it even more difficult.”

He also indicated the big data problem will grow exponentially worse. The military already struggles to analyze the amount of data provided by unmanned aerial systems, he pointed out, indicating the big data problem will worsen. The amount of time it takes to analyze and exploit the data from one Predator flying a straight line route for 18 to 24 hours is already extensive, he noted. “And that’s looking through a soda straw at a very, very small piece of dirt.”

Whoever can best exploit the worldwide full-motion video capability will prevail, he suggested.

Gen. Mingus also warned the military emits an electromagnetic spectrum signature with everything it does. He reported visiting an Army Network Integration Exercise facility last year in which he was able to see the electromagnetic signatures being emitted by every unit. “You hear about it. But you can’t see it, you can’t touch it, you can’t feel it, you don’t understand just how big it actually is until you go and see” the electronic signatures, he said. “The enemy can see it. If he can see it, he can hit it, if he can hit it, he can kill it. He’s got a heck of a lot more stuff out there that can see our stuff than vice versa, so we’ve got to close that gap, too.”

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