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 Defence to unveil roadmap for next generation of satellite capability

The Australian Department of Defence is currently preparing a roadmap for a $2.3 billion nextgeneration satellite communications capability that it expects to present to industry later this year. In his keynote address to the Australasia Satellite Forum in Sydney, air vice marshal Andrew Dowse – Australian Defence Force head of ICT operations for national and regional security – said the project was almost certain to include a mix of commercial and military satcom capability.

Last year's Defence Whitepaper outlined a priority to strengthen the resilience and redundancy of satellite based communications. It is expected that around $2.2-2.3 billion will be allocated over the next decade for the joint project, which is designated JP 9102.

The project is currently in the concept phase and is aiming to get first approvals from government in the early 2020s to commence delivery from the mid-2020s. However, AVM Dowse told forum delegates that it was important to engage with industry early to understand what was possible and to influence future developments.

“I am mindful that we possibly don't have the influence or the funding to make huge changes in what the art of the possible is, but if we can start influencing over the next couple of years for capabilities to be developed in the 2020s that would be a great thing,” he said.

JP 9102 will take over from the previous satellite communications joint project, JP 2008, which is now nearing completion after nearly three decades. The project ran into a number of delays along the way, but Dowse confirmed that it was almost complete with the government having approved the final phases addressing terminal and anchoring upgrades.

“Whilst the project has not been without its challenges, it is supporting the vast majority of the Australian Defence Force's satcom requirements as well as supporting a number of other government departments today. The final phases that we're going into will ensure the ADF's milsat capability is able to keep pace with key requirements into the next decade,” he said.

According to the air vice marshal, the military is continuing to see demand from each of the services for higher data rates to support ever increasing data volumes, especially in command and control, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance. He said defence was also seeing demand for smaller terminals to maximise mobility and transportability.

The government has allocated around $500 million in the forward estimates for finalising JP 2008 as well as for the development of the future project. However, Dowse also noted that there would be further opportunities in the interim. “It's important to note that given any substantial acquisition of a new capability is still some time off, the emerging operational needs for satcom on demand and to support fast movers are increasing. We will continue in the meantime to engage with industry on commercial leased services to supplement our capabilities,” he said.

Geoff Long, CommsDay - talk Satellite