Australia – AUSTRALIAN defence personnel on operations anywhere on Earth will be able to communicate with one another and with bases at home via a sophisticated new network of six military satellites operated jointly with the United States.
The new system will be 10 times faster than the existing mixed military and commercial communications system used by the ADF and will give soldiers in the field near-instant access to high-quality battlefield pictures, maps and other intelligence material.
Soldiers will, for instance, be able to see high-quality pictures of enemy positions taken by manned or unmanned surveillance aircraft operating by day or night as they are taken.
Under a deal negotiated by the Howard government, Australia has spent $927 million on one satellite in the Wideband Global Satellite system and its associated ground infrastructure and the US is paying for the other five. The first satellite will operate over Asia and the Pacific and coverage will grow as more are launched.
The Parliamentary Secretary for Defence Procurement, Greg Combet, announced yesterday that a joint US-Australia test of the new system worked very well. Mr Combet said the full “constellation” of six satellites would be operational in 2013.
Once the network was operating the ADF would be able to operate faster and much more effectively by more closely linking weapons, commanders and a wide range of sensors.
Coalition forces would be able to much more effectively identify allied units to avoid so-called friendly fire incidents.
They would be able to collect, combine and share information about the geography of the battlefield.
The system also would have peacetime uses in disaster relief and search-and-rescue missions.
Mr Combet said the satellite agreement further strengthened the Australia-US alliance. “In particular, it will enhance the interoperability between Australian and US defence forces.”
Mr Combet said the system would link all of Australia’s new generation military capabilities including its air warfare destroyers, amphibious troop carrying ships, multi-mission unmanned aircraft and land forces.