SPECIAL REPORT: Space Force Sets Sights on Putting JADC2 in Orbit

By Josh Luckenbaugh

Northrop Grumman image

Part 5 of 7-part special report on the Defense Department’s joint all-domain command and control, or JADC2, concept.

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado — Space-based systems will play a critical role in the Defense Department’s joint all-domain command and control concept, and the services and commercial industry are working to send new capabilities into orbit.
The goal of the JADC2 initiative is to connect sensors to shooters and ensure warfighters get the right information at the right place and time. JADC2 “can only be achieved with foundational space-based capabilities,” according to “The Indispensable Domain: The Critical Role of Space in JADC2,” an October 2022 policy paper published by the Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies. “Only the space domain can move information at the speed, size and range required of an effective JADC2 architecture,” the paper said.
The Space Force is “working closely” with the Air Force team that is developing the Advanced Battle Management System — the Department of the Air Force’s contribution to the JADC2 initiative — to clearly define what space capabilities are needed, said Brig. Gen. Timothy Sejba, the program executive officer for battle management, command, control and communications at Space Systems Command.
“There are a number of different programs that we believe are core to the overall battle network,” Sejba said during a media briefing at the Space Foundation’s Space Symposium in April. “We look at the [command and control] needed, the sensors that are needed on the space side, and then the effectors that will be fed by all that information. We’re really making sure that we look at it as an end-to-end capability.”

The two “foundational” capabilities for the space component of JADC2 will be a strong data fabric that allows the services to “understand how we’re going to utilize” the information and “where the data needs to go to from across the department,” and resilient networks to ensure “we can connect across the larger Air and Space Forces,” he said.

In March, Space Systems Command awarded a $900 million indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity contract to 18 vendors to provide data software services for the Space Force’s Space C2 program, a command release said.

These services will support war­fighters “by serving as a data layer to efficiently integrate and manage escalating amounts of data from various disparate data sources to enable application delivery, in-depth analysis and data-driven decision making across echelons and functional communities,” the release said.

On the networking side, the Space Development Agency has begun soliciting industry for Tranche 2 of its Proliferated Warfighter Space Architecture, the organization’s director Derek Tournear said. The agency’s goal is to launch a “tranche” of satellites every two years to build a low-Earth constellation that can continually deliver space-based capabilities to the Joint Force.

SDA launched its first set of Tranche 0 satellites this spring, with the rest to follow in June, and Tranche 1 will launch “in 18 months,” Tournear said during a media briefing at the symposium.

“That’s when we’re actually going to have a warfighting capability is Tranche 1,” he said. “Tranche 0 was all about being able to participate in exercises with the warfighter. Tranche 1 is all about providing an operational system that provides low latency [communications] directly to the warfighter.”

The system can support tactical needs and provide “global coverage for advanced missile tracking to be able to detect and track missiles” like hypersonic glide vehicles and transmit the tracking data directly to the warfighter, he added.

With Tranche 2, set to launch in 2026, the agency is breaking up acquisition of its communication satellites, known as the Transport Layer, into three pieces called Beta, Alpha and Gamma, Tournear said.

The Beta satellites “will provide the mesh network with laser communication,” he said. The “main mission” for those satellites will be ultra-high frequency and S-band transmission for tactical satellite communication “that goes directly to the warfighter using existing radios,” he said. The agency plans to acquire 72 Beta satellites from three vendors, he added.

The solicitation for Alpha satellites will be for 100 systems, likely from two vendors, Tournear said. Those satellites will provide very similar capabilities to the Tranche 1 Transport Layer, including a Link 16 mission payload, he said.

“Link 16 is the radio that is used in theater now by the U.S. warfighters and our allies. It’s been around for a long time, and it will continue to be around for a long time,” Tournear said.

The Gamma satellites, which the agency will begin solicitation for in early 2024, will also have ultra-high frequency and S-band capabilities and will introduce “advanced waveforms to help with anti-jamming in a contested environment,” he said.

The Transport Layer will be what ties JADC2 together for the Defense Department, Tournear said during a keynote address at the symposium.

“The mesh network … allows you to get the data in real time directly to the warfighter in theater,” he said. “The tactical data centers — the folks that are actually doing the battle management — they take a target, they pair it to a weapon, and then how do they get that where it needs to go? It goes up to our Transport Layer — that is JADC2.” 

Part 1 - Introduction

Part 2 - Army

Part 3 - Special Operations Command

Part 4 - Air Force

Part 5 - Space

Part 6 - Navy

Part 7 - China

Topics: Space, Cyber-augmented Operations

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