How global satellite providers and future HTS satellites can keep the President better connected

Command and control en route has long been a concern for the military and senior level decision makers within the federal government. Without the ability to stay connected while in the air, the President and other government and military leaders would either be without the ability to make fast decisions, or be forced to do so without all of the data necessary to make informed decisions while in transit.

Imagine if an executive order to conduct a timely military operation couldn’t be issued on time because the President was aboard Air Force One – or if the federal response to a disaster was slowed because necessary parties were en route to the disaster zone. Either situation could be potentially catastrophic for the country and cost American lives.

To combat this issue, the Air Force has long implemented satellite communications aboard Air Force One and the other thirty “VIP aircraft” that make up the 89th Air Wing out of Andrews Air Force Base. This satellite connection enables the President and other senior decision makers to access necessary information, communicate and collaborate with other leaders while in transit, and ultimately ensures that the government doesn’t grind to a halt while the people who call the shots are more than 30,000 feet in the air.

The US Navy has also been exploring airborne COMSATCOM solutions for their senior leaders via the Navy Senior Leadership Communications-Airborne (NSLC-A) program.  Under this program – using traditional leased capacity with roaming between GEO satellites – the Navy has the flexibility of using a global satellite service provider to provide command and control en route for senior decision makers..

There are a number of ways to support the “VIP aircraft” operated by the Air Force and Navy.  One is to leverage the existing global COMSATCOM providers and the infrastructure that is already in place. In this model, the user has dedicated, secure bandwidth that is always-on and reliable.

A second model for supporting “VIP aircraft” requirements is to employ a subscription model for COMSATCOM services. This is a similar model to what is being effectively delivered by COMSATCOM providers – such as SES – to commercial airlines today.

In this model, the COMSATCOM provider supplies necessary hardware – including modems and land equipment – to the user, much of which is capable of delivering advanced functionality and capability. For example – today’s advanced geosynchronous global satellite technologies can deliver seamless switching between beams and satellites, effectively enabling continuous access with no downtime as aircraft leave one satellite’s coverage area and enter another’s. It’s the same technology that COMSATCOM providers such as SES utilize to enable the uninterrupted piloting of remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) across the military.

By taking advantage of the existing infrastructure, innovative business models, and the investments in advanced technology that have already been made by the COMSATCOM industry, the Air Force can save a significant amount of money, enable more advanced functionality and deliver a more seamless connection to the President and senior level decision makers. And by following suit, other branches of the military (such as Navy NSLC-A) can deliver the same benefits to their “VIP aircraft.”

By taking advantage of industry innovation, the military could even think about expanding COMSATCOM services to all aircraft, giving military servicemen and women the same connectivity that business passengers have enjoyed for many years. If commercial airlines can offer something to coach passengers, shouldn’t we extend the same service to America’s men and women in uniform?

For additional information on providing connectivity en route, click on the resources below:

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