Govt commits $180m to Defence satellite upgrade

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Govt commits $180m to Defence satellite upgrade
An Australian-funded satellite prepares to be sent into orbit as part of the US WGS network (Source: Department of Defence)

New terminals connect into US SATCOMMS network.

The Australian Government has signed off on $180 million to pay for a fleet of new satellite receiver terminals for the nation's Defence Force, with Raytheon and subcontractor L-3 Communications set to take the lion’s share of earnings.

The Raytheon/L-3 partnership will deliver ground-based transportable satellite receiver terminals throughout Defence’s Australian sites. The large terminals will have the transmission capacity to support deployed ADF headquarters.

The work is set to significantly boost the defence force’s communications capabilities, linking deployed Australian soldiers into the USA’s Wideband Global SATCOM (WGS) system.

The WGS is the the US Department of Defense’s highest capacity satellite network, boasting the capacity to ‘cross band’ between the X and Ka frequencies.

The latest addition to the ‘constellation’ of orbiting satellites was deployed in August 2013, and the DoD claims that each unit making up the new comms fleet offers more capacity than the entirety of its predecessor, the Defense Satellite Communications System.

Australia bought its way into the WGS partnership through a 2007 memorandum of understanding that saw it fund the sixth satellite in the WGS fleet, at a cost of more than $900 million.

In exchange, Australian troops will be able to access the global high data rate communications network until at least 2024.

In addition to the US and Australia, Canada, Denmark, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and New Zealand are all users of the network.

Work on the project will now move ahead, while Defence continues to struggle with other phases of its satellite overhaul, known by the code JP2008.

In February, the department revealed that phase 3F of the scheme, which involves upgrades to the HMAS Harman comms base in Canberra and the construction of a new fixed comms base in WA, had been added to its official ‘projects of concern’ list.

The project is now running five years behind schedule.

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