While U.S. policy makers discuss the implications of their view of space as a warfighting domain and envisioned satellite jamming by China and Russia, the U.S. Space Force Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC) at Los Angeles AFB, Calif., said this week that it has verified the ability of ground stations for the U.S. military’s 10 Wideband Global Satcom (WGS) satellites to blunt electronic interference.
Boeing [BA] builds WGS.
SMC said that it tested the First Article Test (FAT) Increment 3 of the Mitigation and Anti-Jam Enhancement (MAJE) capability for WGS on June 18.
Air Force Col. John Dukes, the senior materiel leader for SMC’s geosynchronous polar orbit division, said that MAJE “will double the anti-jam SATCOM capabilities for six geographic combatant commands.”
“Adaptive nulling and detection capabilities were successfully tested during the FAT with the test resulting in passing 165 requirements,” SMC said on Aug. 26. “The adaptive nulling test demonstrated MAJE’s ability to suppress interference to optimize performance when contested. Detection testing measured MAJE’s ability to detect simulated interferers based on power level and frequency.”
Work on MAJE began in early 2016 when the Air Force awarded Boeing a $55 million contract for an X-Band anti-jam upgrade focusing on the ground segment and enabling WGS to locate jammers and adjust the satellite beams to neutralize the jammers (Defense Daily, May 10, 2016).
The “significant achievement” of the first increment of FAT testing “will further the mission to bring full-time operations dedicated to defending our vital national interests in space,” per SMC.
Software and hardware upgrades for the Army-operated Global SATCOM Configuration Control Element (GSCCE) ground system make up MAJE. The Army’s GSCCE is designed to detect, identify, geo-locate and mitigate unwanted radio frequency energy on the WGS satellites.
“Due to limitations posed by the COVID-19 global pandemic, 10 days of [FAT Increment 3] testing were completed virtually with operators and witnesses teleworking,” per SMC.
Participants included the Space Force; Army; Aerospace Corp., which oversaw the test; and Boeing, which had equipment under test at the company’s Mission Operations Center in Colorado Springs, Colo.
“Upon MAJE fielding to warfighter operations, WGS 1-10 will have an inherent geolocation and interference mitigation capability allowing for quick isolation of unwanted signals and faster restoral times of affected authorized user communications,” per SMC.
“FAT-4, scheduled for this fall, will test the MAJE system’s geo-location ability,” according to SMC. “FAT-5, the final increment of FAT testing, will complete culti-capability and end to end testing. Successful completion of all FAT increments will establish that the GSCCE-MAJE system is ready to move forward into the interface verification with the Army’s subsystems.”
WGS satellites provide high data rate communications for the U.S. military services and others, including the White House Communications Agency, the U.S. State Department, and international partners.
Boeing is building an 11th WGS satellite under a $605 million firm-fixed price contract awarded last year (Defense Daily, Apr. 19, 2019. While Congress appropriated $600 million in the fiscal year 2018 defense appropriations bill for two additional WGS satellites, the Air Force decided to go with just one more, WGS-11, and double its communications capacity. The WGS program office released a sole-source request for proposal to Boeing for WGS-11 in June 2018.
An SMC “Pacesetter” program, WGS-11 is to use commercial practices to provide multiple smaller, more agile beams that could be more effective within an electronically contested environment. Boeing is to deliver WGS-11 to the Space Force by 2024.