The U.S. Space Force’s Wideband Global Satcom-11 (WGS-11) communications satellite will feature agile beams to avoid jamming, but a possible Mitigation and Anti-Jam Enhancement (MAJE) upgrade for WGS-11 ground stations would have to go through the requirements process.
Boeing [BA] builds WGS, and Space Force plans to receive and launch WGS-11 in 2024. WGS-11 is to have twice the communications capacity of each of the current 10 WGS satellites.
“While WGS-11 does not have MAJE capability built-in, it does have the ability to tailor/shape each of its individual narrower beams thereby increasing its mission flexibility and responsiveness against jamming,” per a Sept. 21 email from Space Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC) at Los Angeles AFB, Calif. “However, if WGS-11 were to add ground anti-jam capability, the WGS-11 program would need to go through a similar WGS 1-10 process.”
Other than MAJE, another DoD satellite anti-jamming effort is the Protected Tactical Enterprise Service (PTES) program.
PTES, a new global military satellite communications ground system, “will use the wide bandwidth available per
beam on WGS satellites to transmit the Protected Tactical Waveform, one of the U.S. Department of Defense’s secure, anti-jam waveforms,” per Boeing. “In later phases of the program, PTES also will manage Protected Tactical Waveform transmissions over commercial communication satellites and terminals.”
Raytheon [RTN] and L3Harris [LHX] are developing protected tactical waveform capable modems for the next generation Protected Tactical Satcom (PTS), but the applicable wave forms are largely DoD, not commercial, ones, and developing avionics terminals with commercial wave forms will be a challenge going forward for improving satellite communications for military aircraft.
Boeing and Hughes are teamed on PTES–the ground segment of PTS.
An SMC “Pacesetter” program, WGS-11 is to use commercial practices to provide multiple smaller, more agile beams that could be more effective in an electronically contested environment.
As U.S. policy makers discuss the implications of their view of space as a warfighting domain and reported satellite jamming efforts by China and Russia, SMC said last month that MAJE testing in June verified the ability of ground stations for the U.S. military’s 10 WGS satellites to blunt electronic interference (Defense Daily, Aug. 28).
SMC said that it tested the First Article Test Increment 3 (FAT-3) of MAJE on June 18–virtually, due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Participants in the FAT-3 testing 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.”
Air Force Col. John Dukes, the senior materiel leader for SMC’s geosynchronous polar orbit division, has 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 last month. “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).
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.
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 WGS-11 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.
On Feb. 10, “SMC definitized a $599.5 million firm-fixed-price contract for the procurement of a WGS-11 satellite,” per the SMC Sept. 21 email. “WGS 1-10 program acquisition unit cost was $452.8 million excluding MAJE enhancements, which cost an additional $68 million for WGS 1-10.”