JP2008 and the battle for Bandwidth

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JP 2008 is one of the critical building blocks in the ADF's future C3I architecture - one of the things it is designed to provide is bandwidth, which is now an increasingly sought-after military resource.
The development of the ADF's military satellite communications capability - vested in Joint Project 2008 (MILSATCOM) - is an activity with virtually no endpoint.

This is because it is one of the core projects on which the ADF, as an evolutionary organisation, is critically dependant and the system has to be adaptable to meet future evolution. And, as in commerce, defence communications services are unlikely to ever catch up and pass the demand for them. Driving factors are the collection and dissemination of ever-increasing amounts of formatted data, enabling its rapid assimilation by an increasing number of users at all levels, including through video conferencing and the like.

The US DOD is already confronted with the problems of increasing commercial demands on the available frequency spectrum and channel bandwidths and this is certain to become a problem for Defence in the not too distant future. Thus, successful outcomes for projects like JP2008 require considerable experience and intuition together with a liberal helping of Merlin's gift of foresight.

To enable them to match evolving service requirements, take advantage of emerging technologies, and mitigate risk, major communications projects are invariably multi-phased. This also makes for better cost control and allows for the progressive satisfaction of the requirement. For these reasons this approach is now the norm in Defence, each phase being carefully defined to achieve a particular objective and capability with minimal redundancy, as future phases are implemented, to reach a defined end capability.

JP 2008 is no exception and the project has been underway for a number of years and currently comprises five phases, with extensive sub-divisions within the phases where implementation of systems is concerned.

The second phase of JP 2008, with three sub-phases, is concerned with establishing near term satcom capabilities for mobile land, maritime and air users. Phase 2A established the Defence Mobile Communications Network, Phase 2B is for the provision of the capability for P-3Cs and C-130Hs and Phase 2C provides an Offshore capability. It should also be noted that, distinct from JP2008, Sea 1420 will provide milsatcom capabilities, using the US UHF milsatcom service, to interconnect selected HMA ships and submarines to Maritime HQ. The project will provide additional channel capacity at the existing naval communications stations in Canberra and Darwin and a remote back-up earth station will be installed at HMAS Stirling in WA.

Phase 3 will provide a more comprehensive satcom capability than that provided by Phase 2 by placing a defence communications payload in a commercial (C&W Optus) satellite. This phase comprises five discrete project sub-phases of which the first two (Phases 3A and 3B) are studies. 3A is now complete and was for the evaluation Defence's future satcom needs post-2005 while 3B is to define a satcom system architecture to be implemented in the last two phases (4 and 5) of the project.

This phase also includes a Theatre Broadcast System (TBS) Concept Technology Demonstrator (CTD), this task being undertaken by DSTO. The TBS was based on the concept of the US DOD's Global Broadcast System (GBS) system architecture and the CTD implemented novel ideas developed by DSTO for a simple, high data rate broadcast system that could use satellites to broadcast data, video and audio. Implementation of the system was to be based on the maximum use of COTS equipment.

The DSTO CTD performed so well that it was deployed by INTERFET in E.Timor and subsequent to that time the equipment has been extensively trialled at sea and on land. The technology embedded in the DSTO design will be carried forward into Phase 3E, the winner of which will have access to it.

>From an industry viewpoint hardware for the final TBS is likely to be sourced overseas, but all aspects involved in integration and introducing the system into service will provide extensive opportunities for locals. This phase is a Category 3 project with funding between $20M -$60M.

Phase 3D, known as the Australian Defence Satellite Communications Capability (ADSCC), covers the installation of a Defence-owned payload in an otherwise commercial satellite, the Optus C1, to be launched in 2002, along with ground infrastructure. When launched this payload, operating in UHF, X and Ka bands, will provide a substantially increased capacity and geographical coverage and the opportunity for improved interoperability with allies. The bandwidth available will also allow, for the first time in Defence, modern C3I data to be broadcast. Vital experience relevant to Phases 4 and 5 will be acquired during this phase.

Contracts of up to $340m have been awarded to Optus for their involvement in this Phase. The prime equipment for this phase will be sourced from Mitsubishi Electric co and Space Systems Loral, but the satellite ground infrastructure and its operation will be undertaken by Australian industry. This phase is a Category 1 project with funding above $200 million.

Phase 3E was approved in June 2000 and is currently active. It will provide the terrestrial infrastructure for the ADSCC, provided by Phase 3D, and is called the Advanced Satcom Terrestrial Infrastructure (ASTIS). ASTIS is required to provide a range of communications terminals for mobile and deployed forces, covering netted, broadcast and full duplex modes of operation and scheduling. The system is required to be incrementally configurable to satisfy the needs of small and large defence functional entities and flexible enough to allow interoperation with alternative and allied satellites. Infrastructure to use C1 for other existing projects is not covered by this phase, but by other extant projects eg Parakeet. Concerning Parakeet, BAE Systems has been awarded a sole source contract to provide an X-band ASTIS capability for Parakeet.

The ITR for this phase was released on 24 Jan 2001, followed by an Industry Briefing on 23 Feb. It is planned to release the RFT during the third quarter of this year to companies short-listed by the ITR process, with a 3-month tendering period. Contract signature is planned to occur approximately seven months after tenders close. Achievement of this timescale will be a real test for DMO.

Prime equipment for this phase is likely to be sourced overseas, but opportunities for industry include some equipment supply, installation, integration, testing and through-life support.

Phase 3E is a Category 2 project with funding between $60M - $200M.

Phases 4 and 5 are currently unapproved and likely to remain in that state until results of Phases 3D and 3E are evident. The phases involve plans to acquire a more comprehensive military satellite communications capability to enter service the latter part of this decade. Options available for these services include sharing capacity with an allied system, and provision of the capability using a Private Financing Initiative.

JP 2008 is probably the most ambitious single project to be undertaken by Defence, because many of its requirements are unique. The final, mature, system will provide the over-arching communications for the ADF's mobile and fixed operations in Australia's areas of interest and as well allow interoperability with its allies. Nonetheless, there remains to be implemented other complementary communications systems to complete the fabric of Defence's communications networks. These include systems such as the HF Modernisation, Defnet, Battlespace Communications and a number of smaller, dedicated tactical systems that, combined with JP 2008, are planned to provide seamless, reliable connectivity throughout Defence.

Bandwidth, originally a visualisation of the various 'bands' within the electromagnetic spectrum, is now more generally seen as a measure of the volume of information that can flow from one place to another in a given amount of time. But the issue isn't merely the speed of transfer of a particular piece of information - that's virtually a constant in the world of electronics. It's the total amount of information moved in a fixed amount of time. Hence the 'width' of the communication channel.

The late Cary Lu, respected technology observer, analyst and author* points out that where the transmission of huge volumes of data is concerned electronics isn't always the best solution.

He says that in transmitting a tremendous amount of data (eg. an enormous database of historical statistics) from, say, New York to London, if done electronically the best solution might be to use one of the European T1 telephone lines under the Atlantic. With a data transfer rate of 2.048 megabits (Mb) per second, the contents of a compact disc (650 MB) could be transferred in a little over 42 minutes.

However, Lu says, if the database is truly enormous the totally electronic solution can be beaten. A Concorde (with passengers) can also carry about 32 500 CD-ROMs. This works out to a transfer rate of about 12.5 gigabits per second, roughly 6100 times faster than the electronic method.

A B747 freighter will do even better. Although it takes more than seven hours to cross the Atlantic, the B747's higher CD-ROM payload more than compensates for its slower speed. Its delivery rate of 1312 gigabits per second is more than 640 000 times faster than wire.

But 'wider' still is the large container ship, which takes eight days to cross the Atlantic, 27 times longer than the B747. But that ship may be able to hold 2.2 billion CD-ROMs. Thus the lumbering ship wins the transatlantic data rate prize by delivering 17 256 gigabits per seconds - over 8.4 million times faster than the electronic method. As Lu says 'slower but wider wins the race.'

*Cary Lu: The Race for Bandwidth, Microsoft Press Redmond WA 1998

By Fred Haddock with Tom Muir, Canberra
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