As the Canadian armed forces look ahead to the strategic challenges of the next 20 years — as outlined in the Canadian Defence Policy, Strong Secure and Engaged — one thing becomes clear: strong and reliable communications capabilities will be vital to Canadian security.
In particular, tactical networking will be key to multiple Canadian projects, including:
- Tactical Integrated Command, Control and Communications (TIC3)
- Enhanced Satellite Communication Project – Polar (ESCP-P)
- The Canadian Army’s Network Modernization Projects
- Joint Fires Modernization
- Land Command Support System Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance Modernization
- Land Command Support System Tactical Communications Modernization
- Joint Deployable HQ and Signal Regiment Modernization
These projects and others depend on ensuring sufficient connectivity to meet present and future needs. But no less important are portability and scalability, interoperability with alliance partners, and cybersecurity against the ever-present threat of hackers.
Though Viasat is perhaps best known as a commercial SATCOM provider, it also brings a unique suite of capabilities to meet current Canadian defense requirements and the needs of Canada’s warfighters. Viasat is recognized as an industry leader providing high-speed, secure and reliable SATCOM services to customers across commercial and defense markets around the globe.
As an ISP, Viasat knows how to handle – and how to protect – vast amounts of data. And as a major provider of communications, networking and cybersecurity to the U.S. military, Five Eye coalition partners and civilian agencies, Viasat has a long history of delivering innovative technology capabilities to meet the needs of a wide range of government customers.
Of particular relevance to Canada’s modernization is Viasat’s track record as a developer of cutting-edge tactical networking technologies, including satellite terminals and a wide variety of Link 16 radios, including the only handheld Link 16 in the world. As such, Viasat is a major participant in the U.S. Army’s network modernization efforts, which integrates commercial SATCOM and military networks to take advantage of the best of both worlds.
“Viasat’s industry-leading portfolio of Next-Generation Tactical Data Links products, cybersecurity services and SATCOM capabilities are available to help modernize Canadian armed forces to meet mission needs,” says Ken Peterman, Viasat’s president of Government Systems.
U.S. track record
Viasat’s contribution to U.S. Army network modernization efforts comprises multiple Viasat-designed systems, including the AN/PRC-161 Battlefield Awareness Targeting System – Dismounted (BATS-D) handheld Link 16 radio; the AN/TSC-241 Multi-Mission Terminal (MMT) for satellite communications; the KOR-24A Small Tactical Terminal (STT); and the Move Out/Jump Off (MOJO) Expeditionary Tactical Gateway.
In fact, the advanced connectivity capabilities of Viasat’s MMT were successfully tested and field-validated during the recent Saber Strike 2018 exercise in Europe. It was during Saber Strike that Canadian observers first noticed the significant advantages the Multi-Mission Terminal can provide to Canadian armed forces.
This suite of capabilities offers several advantages, enabling the user to operate over both government and commercial networks depending on mission needs. While operating over Viasat’s commercial satellite networks, users can achieve speeds of up to 100 Mbps. That’s far faster than government systems and a speed that will only improve as commercial SATCOM technology evolves. Indeed, Peterman points to a significant benefit of the Army network modernization concept: the flexibility to respond to future mission needs.
“Private sector technology is transforming faster than the acquisition communities can react,” he says. “If you look at some of the current Canadian modernization programs, they are six to eight years out. If you look at the technologies and capabilities Viasat is bringing out in the tactical communications space, we’re delivering cutting-edge capabilities and technologies at an impressive rate — all while keeping costs low for the end user.”
Viasat also has extensive experience meeting Canadian military requirements. The Canadian Department of National Defense recently selected the company’s KOR-24A Small Tactical Terminal for its Airspace Coordination Center Modernization program. Viasat has also supplied Link 16 terminals and satellite communications systems to a number of Canadian military aircraft and ships.
Viasat recently announced it was awarded a contract by the Administrator of the Space Enterprise Consortium, under the Air Force Research Laboratory Space Vehicles XVI program, to deliver and test the first-ever Link 16-capable LEO spacecraft. This pilot program will help transform Link 16 from a Line-of-Sight (LOS) to a Beyond Line-of-Site (BLOS) network. The XVI program also has the potential to expand to provide Canadian and allied military forces with secure, high-speed and resilient Link 16 communications necessary to enhance warfighter capabilities and improve the common operating picture across the global battlespace via Viasat’s Hybrid Adaptive Network concept.
Another promising initiative Viasat is now exploring is Internet for Sailors, which would provide commercial satellite communications for Royal Canadian Navy sailors at sea.
“The Internet for Sailors initiative also illustrates why Viasat’s expertise in cybersecurity is so important,” said Joe Johnson, a director of business development within Viasat’s Government Systems business. “Viasat has been delivering cybersecurity services to both commercial and government customers for over 25 years. Our ability to analyze data across both markets and defend against some of the world’s most sophisticated cyber-threats puts us in a unique position to deliver the secure connectivity and internet services the Canadian armed forces will need while at sea.”
Last year, Viasat unveiled the availability of its Mobile Dynamic Defense (MDD) cybersecurity system for both U.S. and coalition naval forces. MDD will allow naval forces to protect and distribute sensitive data between ships at sea and users ashore.
This year, at the CANSEC 2019 trade show, Viasat will highlight its capabilities — such as its successful work with U.S. Army network modernization.
“We will be showcasing the advanced connectivity capabilities Viasat can deliver to the Canadian Armed forces as it looks to develop a modernized integrated tactical network,” Johnson says.
“We are proud to partner with the Canadian armed forces and other coalition forces around the world to ensure warfighters have the tactical edge needed to succeed across today’s data-driven battlespace,” adds Peterman. “At CANSEC, we are looking forward to showcasing the powerful capabilities Viasat can deliver to the Canadian Armed Forces that will significantly enhance mission effectiveness and improve warfighter safety for forces operating around the globe.”