Each of the United States military’s ten combatant commands, and the domains and missions that they are responsible for, have their own unique challenges and obstacles. For the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command (INDOPACOM), one of those unique challenges involves logistics.
You only have to look at a map or globe to see why INDOPACOM faces logistical issues and challenges.
Its Area of Responsibility (AoR) is enormous – approximately half of the globe. The AoR also encompasses 36 different nations and includes more than 50 percent of the world’s total population. Those 36 different nations and their large populations are separated from the United States by a massive ocean. Between the United States and many of its adversaries on the other side of that ocean is nothing but a few tiny islands.
While the IDOPACOM’s AoR faces the geographical isolation and subsequent logistical issues that only seemingly endless miles of ocean can create, it’s also an increasingly important AoR for our nation’s military.
Two of the country’s largest, near-peer adversaries – Russia and China – are in the AoR, as well as one of our most unpredictable adversaries, North Korea. The presence of these adversaries and some of their recent, provocative activities has the Department of Defense more focused on the INDOPACOM AoR than they have been in decades.
With the INDOPACOM AoR increasingly important for our nation’s military and national defense, how can the DoD ensure that the more than 200 ships and 375,000 personnel assigned to that theater have the tools and technologies that they need to accomplish their missions?
Bandwidth is essential
Today’s modern, advanced military relies on applications and IT solutions. From weapons systems, to operations, to ISR activities, practically everything that the military does today relies on IT networks and capabilities. Information Superiority is critical to all warfighting domains.
Unfortunately, in the INDOPACOM AoR, networks are a problem because of the logistical challenges that we laid out.
There are no terrestrial networks in the middle of the ocean. On the other side of that ocean, the terrestrial networks that do exist can also be problematic. They can be controlled by our adversaries, pass through territories controlled by adversaries or otherwise just lack the reliability and mission assurance we need for terrestrial networks that are going to be carrying mission-critical and essential data.
The simple solution for this has been satellite. However, DoD mandates are driving military applications and solutions to the cloud, while military applications have grown increasingly complex and bandwidth hungry. Together, these attributes preclude using the higher latency and lower bandwidth satellite solutions traditionally available to the military.
As a result, the military hasn’t really pushed the envelope on the different kinds of technologies and capabilities they could implement within the INDOPACOM AoR. One could argue that they have become accustomed to the bandwidth and capacity readily available and have allowed that to become its own constraint – and to their own detriment. That’s because there are many other incredible use cases for today’s advanced technologies that could help combat the distance challenges of the AoR if they could only figure out their bandwidth issue.
MEO and HTS to the rescue
Luckily, new technologies and innovations in satellites and satellite networks could help to eliminate the bandwidth and latency challenges facing the DoD in the INDOPACOM AoR.
A new generation of high-throughput satellites (HTS) are drastically increasing the throughputs and bandwidth of satellite networks. Other advancements allowing for satellites to be placed in orbits closer to the earth – including the LEO and MEO orbits – are helping to drastically reduce latency.
The placement of HTS satellites in MEO has proven capable of delivering fiber-like connectivity and throughputs to users. These satellites can deliver an experience on par with many terrestrial networks. And that experience can be delivered to practically anywhere on Earth where a beam can be placed.
This makes advanced IT solutions a reality, even in the middle of the ocean, and makes it possible for the same IT tools, applications and capabilities that military personnel rely on at home to be available when they’re deployed in the INDOPACOM AoR.
With no bandwidth concerns to stymie the imagination of military leaders and decision makers, there is virtually no limit to the different technology implementations that can be adopted by INDOPACOM to increase operational efficiency, increase mission effectiveness and help overcome the logistical challenges of a difficult AoR.
Here are just a few.
4K HD video for ISR – Long gone are the days of the military relying on grainy, black-and-white photos for their intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance. Today’s military relies on high quality, real time video for ISR. HD video and large GEOINT files require massive amounts of bandwidth.
With fiber-like connectivity available to every ship at sea in the INDOPACOM AoR, the latest, greatest and highest quality intelligence can be made available to all warfighters in theater, ensuring that they’re always capable of making decisions with the most up-to-date, accurate and actionable intelligence.
VTC for telemedicine – There are more than 200 ships in the INDOPACOM AoR. It can take a ship anywhere from 15-30 days to cross the Pacific. This makes bringing timely, specialized medical care and treatment to every warfighter and civilian in the AoR that much harder. However, with advanced video teleconferencing (VTC) solutions used in telemedicine implementations, immediate, specialized care can be made available – even to those that are thousands of miles away.
Although the bandwidth needed for a quality video connection has decreased over time, the quality HD video needed to adequately deliver care via telemedicine can require high throughput and low latency connections. With MEO satellite bandwidth, quality, specialized care can be available from anywhere – helping to improve outcomes and deliver healthcare services to military personnel more quickly and efficiently.
Vehicle maintenance and repair – the more than 200 ships and thousands of aircraft are in the INDOPACOM AoR for a reason. Each are needed in some capacity to help accomplish the mission. If these vehicles and weapons systems are necessary, then it’s important that they’re always operational and functioning.
Today’s network-connected sensors and devices are capable of identifying issues within a weapons system or military platform before they cause legitimate problems or system failure. However, these sensors require network connections to operate.
Should a weapons system or vehicle fail, high throughput, low latency connections can deliver maintenance or repair technicians in theater via video to help diagnose the problem. They can even be used to access schematics and plans for parts so that they can be 3D printed in-theater.
Today’s modern technologies are capable of delivering massive benefits to the military – many of which can help to overcome the logistical challenges and problems posed by the INDOPACOM AoR. However, these technologies and innovations are only available with the network connections and bandwidth necessary to carry the data they need to operate.
The next generation of MEO HTS satellites can deliver that bandwidth to virtually anywhere on the globe – meaning that the capabilities available in theater to INDOPACOM are limited only to what’s technologically feasible today, and the imagination.