Singapore – The U.S.’s increasing presence in Australia and the Asia-Pacific region has implications for military satellite communications, says the Australian ’s satellite capability project officer, Sqdn. Leader Daniel Howarth.
“It will mean more challenges,” as the U.S. will increasingly be using bandwidth from its Wideband Global Satcom (WGS) satellites covering the region , he notes. The U.S., however, has given assurances that Australia will have guaranteed access to the WGS network, Howarth says. But he also explains that the U.S. controls the WGS network, so Australia faces a challenge of ensuring that the U.S. sticks to its commitment and gives Australia the access it needs.
Howarth says WGS is useful to Australia because it provides global coverage as well as the ability to focus on the country’s territory and the Pacific and Indian oceans.
Australia’s military currently uses commercial satellite Optus C1 for wideband coverage. “Having only a single satellite has created operational issues” for the military, says Howarth. Australia’s military forces in Afghanistan, for example, were unable to use C1 because the satellite provides coverage only of Australia, he says. This means Australian forces had to use commercial satellite communication providers, he adds.
Howarth was speaking at the MilSatCom conference in Singapore on May 9. One of the conference delegates asked Howarth whether the Australian military will be using the new satellites that the country is launching.
Two satellites are expected to provide the country ’s population with a national broadband network (NBN). Howarth says the military will have no payload on these satellites.
It is “a missed opportunity,” says Howarth, adding that “to put a military payload on that satellite” would have given Australia its own military satellite capability, rather than relying on spacecraft controlled by overseas parties. Howarth in this instance was expressing his own personal view and not necessarily that of Australia’s department of defense. Howarth says there was no push within the department to have a military payload on an NBN satellite.