The January launch of 10 SpaceX Starlink polar orbit satellites are to enhance the communications for U.S. military forces in the Arctic, and Air Force Gen. Glen VanHerck, the head of U.S. Northern Command (NORTHCOM) and the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), told lawmakers this week that he hopes to have another 100 satellites for such communications in the future.
SpaceX and OneWeb are building such commercial, polar orbit satellites.
“To compete in the Arctic, you have to be on the field,” VanHerck said in response to a question from House Armed Services Commitee Chairman Adam Smith (D-Wash.) on the Arctic competition with Russia during an Apr. 14 hearing. “Currently…we’re not able to have the persistence I need to compete day-to-day in the Arctic. My priorities start with domain awareness, the ability to communicate and provide data and information so that we can operate and have persistence in the Arctic…We’ve got 10 satellites on orbit and approximately 100 more in the future.”
NORTHCOM is also looking to increase its use of artificial intelligence/machine learning (AI/ML) to accelerate effective decision making to stay ahead of adversaries before and during conflicts.
Last month, NORTHCOM held the second Global Information Dominance Experiments (GIDE) to improve cross-combatant command collaboration and generate effective military actions using AI/ML.
NORTHCOM said that the second GIDE–GIDE2–featured the participation of all 11 combatant commands. The first GIDE was held last December.
“The Global Information Dominance Experiment 2, or GIDE2, tested three decision aids — Cosmos, Lattice and Gaia — that harness AI and machine learning to rapidly bring information to decision makers, from the tactical to strategic level, during a world-scale scenario against two near-peer competitors,” per NORTHCOM.
GIDE2 “demonstrated fused all-domain sensing, AI-enabled cross-combatant command decision aids, enhanced deterrence capability, and increased decision space via rapid Course Of Action (COA) development ability,” NORTHCOM said. “The experiment was also paired with the NORAD live fly exercise AMALGAM DART, which allowed the GIDE participants to access and react in a real-world scenario.”