• © Commonwealth of Australia, Department of Defence
    © Commonwealth of Australia, Department of Defence
  • Commonwealth of Australia, Department of Defence
    Commonwealth of Australia, Department of Defence
  • Commonwealth of Australia
    Commonwealth of Australia

The JP9102 Phase 1 program office for the next generation of satcom technologies held an industry briefing session in Canberra at the end of September, with 170 companies registering for the event.

Led by Lieutenant Colonel Mick Hose, the industry brief gave some insight into how he and his team are approaching the wide-ranging program. Speaking to about 140 people, LTCOL Hose was upfront in praising the support of ADIESA (Australian Defence Information and Electronic Systems Association) and their role in facilitating industry consultations to help shape their thinking and give an idea of what the art of the possible could look like.

“This system will not exist without you in industry as a FIC (fundamental input to capability),” LTCOL Hose said. “You have already helped and refined our thinking and I would like to thank you for that. ADIESA has been our main mechanism to do that and we’re looking forward to continuing that relationship as we further refine our approach.”

ADIESA deputy chair Kylah Limmer of NEC outlined the engagement so far (Editor’s note: this engagement echoed the collaborative approach once used by the former RPDE organisation which has now been subsumed by the CDIC) and how interest in an upcoming focus group slated for October could be accessed through their website.

The focus group of 20-30 people will be aiming to consider:

  1. What option(s) should the market research be based on?
  2. What structure of cost templates should Defence provide?
  3. What documents from Defence does industry need to cost the system?
  4. What is the balance of cost fidelity given a ~ two month time to respond?
  5. How can industry respond with solutions “out of the SATCOM box”?
  6. How can Defence economically continue engagement in Feb 19 to assist with system level responses?
  7. What does industry need to know about legacy capability from JP 2008 that may need to be considered as GFE for JP 9102?

In subsequent discussions with members of the ADIESA board, they wished to make it clear that whilst ADIESA is lending its Focus Group processes to the industry engagement, membership of ADIESA is not mandatory to attend this Focus Group and ongoing industry engagement – it is open to all interested Industry parties. The ADIESA executive would of course welcome any enquiries to join ADIESA from interested parties.

The mission
With an increasing bandwidth hungry 5th Gen force in the making, the ADF needs the Australian Defence Satcom Systems (ASDSS) as a vital part of any task, at home and abroad. This importance is reflected in the $2-3 billion Defence will spend on these capabilities between 2019-2029, according to the Integrated Investment Program.

“The ASDSS is to enable the Joint Command and Control of Deployed Joint Task Forces through resilient and responsive communications beyond the range and capacity of other communications systems,” LTCOL Hose outlined.

Meeting the demands of the ASDSS will be centred on a blend of elements alongside 9102; building on the legacy foundation comprised of the various segments of JP 2008, various terminal projects from the three services, and commercial contracts (for training, operations, platform support).

The ASDSS has a broad option set characterised by:

  • Rapidly evolving technologies
  • Increasing demand for higher and multiple bands
  • Increasing trend for communications satellites to adopt more complex orbits
  • Increasing opportunities for partnering with industry or international partners
  • Increased opportunities with peer space capabilities, not just SATCOM
  • Considerations for Australian industry and the Australian Space Agency
  • Considerations for significant investments made to date via JP 2008

Like any good comms program, the family tree of interrelated programs and projects is prodigious. The interaction of legacy and new technologies will be a balancing act for the program office given the high cost nature of space-based capabilities. While the various phases of JP 2008 have not been the smoothest of journeys, the program office doesn’t want to throw the baby out with the bathwater.

The satcom roadmap on show at the brief saw high mobility satcoms (narrowband), high capacity satcom (wideband) and strategic ground based facilities alongside deployed terminals bringing a complicated picture together.

“The segment in space will need to be diverse in order to support maritime joint taskforce and amphibious joint task force, that both deploy a range of assets with very diverse requirements,” LTCOL Hose said. “These are underpinned by ground stations and network operations. This is so the joint warfighter can communicate essential C2 elements effectively wherever they are.”

Lieutenant Colonel Hose also acknowledged that aircraft are the most difficult platforms to work with in this regard as they move through all three dimensions, making them the hardest to maintain continuity with.

“The ASDSS will need to support point to point but employ a hub and spoke model to achieve these aims,” LTCOL Hose said, emphasising that system level flexibility over the lifetime of the capability, i.e open system architecture.

“We need to have agility to adapt and reconfigure during missions for users,” he said, acknowledging that there will be a mandated requirement for interoperability between services, relevant Australian agencies and international partners.

Building a resilient system means that there will be a range of options available to choose from, making the most of both commercial and military technologies both now and into the future. But there will be inevitable trade offs.

“In terms of resilience, not all threats are equal,” LTCOL Hose said.

He then spoke of the role of Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites and the trade offs they pose. 

“We need to understand that LEO platforms shift complexity, risk and cost to other elements in the space system,” he said, confirming that the cost and contracting models from JP 2008 cannot be ‘cut and pasted’ into 9102. This is welcome thinking in this space given the strides that commercial technology has made since JP 2008 was developed. The technology evolution that is Space 2.0 and the ability to incorporate new technology elements as they become more readily available and affordable will also ne key.

“The upcoming RFI due in mid-January 2019 (to be followed by another industry brief later that month) is a true market investigation opportunity to fill our knowledge gaps,” LTCOL Hose said. “We have a pretty good idea of what the market can offer us, now we just need to know what it costs and how that affects our tradeoffs.”

The upcoming RFI will significantly shape the Gate 1 case going to government in 2020 with Gate 2 expected in 2022 that will see the transition of the first works packages to acquisition with rolling gates and risk reduction activities in this phase.

ADM Comment:
This was probably one of the better industry briefing sessions the author has been to in some time. Comprehensive slides, a presenter who took questions and answered them, and an audience that was engaged. There was no sense that a probity officer was sitting in the front row making discreet faces at the presenter. It would be good to see this approach applied to other programs.

This article first appeared in the November 2018 edition of ADM.  

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