Key to defence – Space

by Chris Bergin

John Fuller, Vice President of Boeing Space & Intelligence Systems, has spoken on the progression of satellites – and how they are building a vital role in defence of the free world.

A former US Air Force major, stationed at the Pentagon in Washington, DC, Fuller gave an impassioned speech at the weekend to military space experts at the 2006 Defence Space Seminar in Canberra, Australia.

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As the planet’s battleground turns ever more to technological warfare, the absolute necessity of being one step ahead of the enemy in realm of intelligence via space-borne systems was emphasised by Fuller.

‘Space enables everything we do: detect and assess threats; command and control forces; gather and disseminate intelligence; target weapons; navigate air, ground and sea assets,’ he said.

‘Moreover, space is an enormous force multiplier; it enhances air/land/sea operations, it enables precision strike, and – most important – it provides information superiority. This is the concept of network-centric operations, which enables existing and new platforms to interoperate and perform in a global network.

‘I view Industry’s job is to promote this network concept by developing ways to help the U.S. and its allies give coalition forces unprecedented speed and precision in the face of diverse, unpredictable, mobile, and evolving security threats.’

Fuller also noted the dual benefits of space technology, with the obvious civilian resource of GPS (Global Positioning Satellite) now widely used by the public and military alike, as well as the advances in telecommunications.

‘I think it’s useful to bear in mind their stunning economic impact as well,’ he added. ‘In 40 years, the satellite industry has developed and deployed efficient and transparent satellite communications technology.

‘It has created and expanded commercial markets for business, personal and civil applications. Transmitting voice, facsimile, television, radio and data across continents, instantaneously, has become the norm. Consumers use satellites when they swipe a credit card at a gas station, withdraw cash at a bank, and watch TV.’

Recently, The Teal Group Corporation – an analysis of trends within the aerospace/defence market – announced it projects 176 GEO commercial satellites, worth a staggering $28.3 billion, will be launched between 2006 and 2015. This expanding trend in both quantity and quality has not been lost on Fuller.

‘In 1963 there was one geosynchronous communications satellite. Now there are well over 200. Now those revenues total around $3 billion. In 1965 a few million people watched television broadcast by satellite. Now, about four billion do.

‘In 1965, satellites had the capacity to transmit a few hundred simultaneous phone calls. Satellites today transmit up to 500 million simultaneous phone calls.

‘Looking at recent trends, more than 200 commercial communications satellites valued at 25 billion U.S. dollars will be deployed in GEO or MEO orbits over the next 10 years. The accuracy of five-day weather forecasts has almost doubled over the last 15 years, thanks largely to satellite systems, and it will get even better when the next-generation of weather monitoring systems is deployed.

‘Recently, the U.S. military has fulfilled up to 80 percent of its worldwide communications needs with commercial satellite communications services.

‘Looking to the future, we see continued growth in military space systems, homeland security and other government services, direct-to-user systems and broadband, direct video and audio broadcasting, Internet trunking, high-definition television, and mobile cell phone services. Airline high-speed Internet broadband providers are steadily adding new customers. Satellite radio is another high-growth area.’

Fuller also stated that the momentum can ill afford to be lost, especially in the field of military defence.

‘In this fast-changing environment, satellite system providers can’t just stand still, either from a business or technology standpoint. In the military and intelligence realm, the network I referred to isn’t complete; legacy and new transformational space systems are not horizontally integrated.

‘Military and intelligence space customers are not monolithic but have differing needs and priorities, leaving assets in space, in the air, at sea and on the ground largely stovepiped and certainly not integrated from a systems of systems perspective.

‘In recognition of this, the U.S. government is moving forward on several very important next-generation military space systems. The Pentagon is increasingly focusing on capabilities-driven solutions and systems that are interoperable and integrated across all branches of service.

‘The Transformational Communications Architecture is driving many emerging technologies, such as digital payloads, phased array antennas, bandwidth efficient modulation, and laser communications.

‘Transformational military force structures required to meet evolving threats demand lighter forces that are more mobile, and these mobile forces require network connectivity to perform their missions. Network connectivity and a modernized communications infrastructure are key to improving capacity and information exchanges among deployed warfighters.

‘Former U.S. defense official Peter Teets once said, ‘In the battlespace of tomorrow, victory may be won or lost in mere seconds–the seconds it takes to identify and strike a moving target, or the seconds it takes to make a critical decision.’

This illustrates the necessity of a network including space assets that operates seamlessly in real time. Our military customers have come to expect mature, rigorously tested technology that will ensure mission success in this networked environment.’


Fuller continued by giving examples of government/commercial synergy with his company, Boeing, as advances help aid troops on the frontline in this important time of conflict with an unseen enemy.

‘For example, we migrated fixed and broadcast satellite systems used on the military UHF satellite series to such commercial systems as Anik and DIRECTV.

‘At the same time, we have leveraged wideband and fixed user technology on the commercial Spaceway series to the Wideband Gapfiller satellite system, which is a highly complex, high-capability communications system that will give commanders and troops tremendous capacity.

‘Wideband Gapfiller System is the most complicated phased-array program ever done in space and will put more transponders in one antenna than has ever been done before. Just one Wideband Gapfiller satellite will provide more communications capacity than the entire nine-satellite defense communications constellation it is replacing.

‘Mobile phone capabilities we developed for the commercial Thuraya turnkey system, which reaches an area populated by more than two billion people, will help warfighters and commanders using the military MUOS system (Multi-User Objective System).

‘Another major military communications system that Boeing is heavily involved in is the Transformational Satellite Communications System. No other space asset being developed even comes close to meeting future bandwidth availability requirements. For example, TSAT can process a reconnaissance photo in less than a second, and instantly transmit it. TSAT will provide survivable and protected high-capacity, Internet-like connectivity. In network centric warfare, speed plus bandwidth availability translates to survival for deployed forces.

‘And what’s the best way to provide these capabilities? With an integrated mix of dedicated, advanced U.S. government systems, supported by complementary commercial services.



‘Commercial satellite communications and associated ground systems provided 45 percent of communications between the theatre and the continental U.S. in Operation Desert Storm in the early 1990s.

‘In Operation Iraqi Freedom, commercial satellites have provided 80 percent of communications, almost double the Desert Storm figure, and Iraqi Freedom forces had 40 times the bandwidth capability of Desert Storm just a dozen years earlier.

‘Together, these capabilities enable the tremendous capacity and operational flexibility required by the U.S. and its allies.

‘Nothing less than international security and warfighter lives are at stake.’

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**Read Fuller’s full speech transcript by clicking here**

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