MILCOM 2018

January 1, 2019
By Kimberly Underwood
The U.S. Air Force is facing a strategic inflection point in terms of how it pursues satellite communications in an increasingly contested space environment. The service launched its fourth Advanced Extremely High Frequency mission aboard the Atlas V rocket by the United Launch Alliance on October 17, 2018, at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, Space Launch Complex-41.  United Launch Alliance

Known as the SMC, the U.S. Air Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center, part of the service’s Space Command, is at the helm of the military’s satellite communications. Confronting a contested space environment and the need to innovate faster, the SMC is pursuing a reorganization involving its contracting and decision-making approaches to improve the nation’s defense-related satellite communications.

October 31, 2018
By Kimberly Underwood
Airbus' SpaceDataHighway system, which the company refers to as the world’s first ‘optical fibre in the sky’ employs laser communications technology, a rising capability. Credit: Airbus

An alternative to radio frequency-based communications, laser communications, or optic-based technologies, are emerging as another tool for warfighters.
 
Stakeholders across the laser communications sector have formed an industry group, known as the Laser Communications Coalition. At the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) and AFCEA International’s MILCOM conference in Los Angeles on October 30, some stakeholders shared their view of the technology and market outlook for their optic-based communications equipment or services.
 

November 2, 2018
By Kimberly Underwood
United Launch Alliance's Delta IV rocket, carrying the Air Force’s WGS-9 satellite, launches from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on March 18, 2017. Although the Air Force has its sights on further WGS missions 11 and 12, they don’t include plans to support X-band capability. Photo credit: United Launch Alliance

The U.S. Air Force is pursuing an overarching effort known as SMC 2.0, spearheading agile acquisition, reorganizing internally and working to define a hybrid flexible architecture for satellite systems to better protect the United States. The support of X-band capability, however, is unclear, leaders say.

For the Navy, use of satellite based X-band frequency is a vital defense component; the service’s continued reliance on X-band will extend well into the future. For example, the Navy is pursuing improvements to its active phased array X-band radar under its Future X-band Radar program that aims to create a next-generation technology by 2027.

November 2, 2018
By Kimberly Underwood
Col. James Reynolds, USAF, emphasizes that the Air Force can’t develop satellite communications like they did in the past, signaling a move away from single providers in some cases.

While the U.S. Air Force will always have purpose-built and single-provider satellite communications, it wants to move into more flexible constructs that would allow warfighters to jump between multiple providers, frequency bands and systems.

November 1, 2018
By Kimberly Underwood
A new office at the U.S. Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center intentionally will be going after international partnerships for satellite communications, says Col. Timothy M. McKenzie, USAF, senior materiel leader, division chief, Advanced Development Division, MILSATCOM Systems Directorate. Credit: Katie Helwig

A burgeoning threat environment, an increasingly contentious space environment, the push toward rapid innovation and constant cost constraints are driving the U.S. military to pursue more partnerships to secure necessary satellite communications. The renewed interest in partnering with allies to get satellite systems into orbit will help shoulder the cost burden and enable the U.S. military meet its program needs, experts say.

October 31, 2018
By Kimberly Underwood
To meet the STEM employment gap, Barbara Borgonovi, vice president, Integrated Communication Systems, Raytheon Space and Airborne Systems, advises the military and the industry to alter how they identify, hire and retain talent. Credit: AFCEA/Katie Helwig

In the information age, military operations are becoming more and more dependent on network-based capabilities. Meeting the rising communication technology challenges of the future means having a workforce versed in science, technology, engineering and math, leaders suggest.

Barbara Borgonovi, vice president, Integrated Communication Systems, Raytheon Space and Airborne Systems, shared that talented workers are needed to fill employment gaps at defense companies as well as in the military. She refers to the challenge as the talent imperative.

To fill positions, industry and the government need to change how they identify, hire and retain talent, Borgonovi said.

October 31, 2018
By Kimberly Underwood
 Rear Adm. Christian "Boris" Becker, USN, commander of SPAWAR, speaks at MILCOM. Credit: Katie Helwig

To be the Navy the nation needs, the service must grow, leaders have decided. As part of the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act, Congress approved the Navy’s growth to 355 ships.

October 30, 2018
By Kimberly Underwood
Lt. Gen. Bruce Crawford, USA, the Army CIO/G-6, is turning his attention to the service’s enterprise. Credit: Katie Helwig/AFCEA

The U.S. Army has spent the last year undertaking some of the most significant changes for the service in decades: outlining a modernization plan; defining six modernization priorities; standing up eight cross-functional teams; and creating the Futures Command, among other efforts.

One year ago, Army Undersecretary Ryan McCarthy and Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley, USA, identified the services’ six modernization priorities, which included long-range precision fires; next-generation combat vehicles, future vertical lift platforms, a modern Army computer network, air and missile defense capabilities, and improved soldier lethality.

October 30, 2018
By Kimberly Underwood
Experts at MILCOM consider the possibility of forecasting cyber attacks. Credit: Katie Helwig

Somewhere between “hype and hope,” experts posit that aspects of a cyber attack can be predicted. They caution that success so far has been limited. If it is possible, forecasting digital invasions in advance naturally could be an important capability.

The key is predicting with enough accuracy to be helpful and with sufficient lead time, experts shared at AFCEA International and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers’ (IEEE’s) MILCOM conference on October 29 in Los Angeles.

Malicious emails have been the more forecastable type of cyber attack, the experts said.

October 30, 2018
By Kimberly Underwood
Lt. Gen. John Thompson, commander, Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC) and commander, Air Force Space Command, offers that the SMC 2.0 effort is all about shifting SMC's cultural mindset to be more innovative in satellite communications. Credit: Katie Helwig/AFCEA

The United States is facing a strategic inflection point in terms of how it will pursue satellite communications in an increasingly contested, degraded or operationally limited space environment. In response, the U.S. Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center developed an overarching effort, dubbed SMC 2.0, spearheading agile acquisition, reorganizing internally and harnessing innovation to keep the military and the country safe from adversarial attacks.