Delivering critical support for Airborne Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance missions

21 June 2018

Steve Gizinski, Chief Technical Officer, Inmarsat Government

  • us-government

  • global-xpress

The military community is often best served by intelligence gathered in the air: high in the sky and often rapidly deployed, manned and unmanned aircraft collect and transmit data and video which provide essential insights regarding an enemy’s movements, a planned mission’s battlespace and other key operational details.

This is what Airborne Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (AISR) is all about, and we at Inmarsat Government are proud to play a primary role in it. Recently, I had the privilege of giving a presentation at the 2018 Next-Generation ISR Symposium in which I illustrated the extent of Inmarsat Government’s support for the U.S. government’s AISR operations.

The presentation, titled Global Xpress: Ensuring Seamless, Global AISR Connectivity in Military and Commercial Ka-band, demonstrated how Inmarsat has emerged as the market leader for worldwide mobile connectivity, delivering mission-critical satellite communications (SATCOM) where terrestrial networks are either unreliable, unavailable or simply do not exist. With four decades of proven capabilities in support of mobile traffic patterns and event-driven deployments – backed by performance metrics – the company has invested more than $4 billion in next-generation networks since 2010 to ensure state-of-the-art, redundant global L-band and Ka-band coverage with unprecedented reliability over secure satellites and ground networks.

We have dedicated ourselves to this level of excellence because AISR demands nothing less than global coverage, high-throughput and small-footprint antennas, along with SATCOM diversity, reliability and security. Global Xpress, of course, brings these qualities – and more – to the table. Global Xpress is the first and only end-to-end, commercial Ka-band network that delivers worldwide service, with the benefits of seamless, consistent, high-throughput wideband connectivity that connects users wherever they are.

Fully compatible coverage – with no ‘cold spots’

More than ever, AISR leadership is emphasising the importance of having all new U.S. government aircraft systems compatible with existing military satellite (MILSATCOM) and commercial services. Current Ku-band terminals, frankly, are not engineered for this. Their frequency bands are far removed from military bands, so they require separate hardware. Ka-band, on the other hand, includes frequencies used by both military and civilian users, and terminals switch readily and seamlessly between MILSATCOM and commercial SATCOM (COMSATCOM) establishing fully complementary coverage so users have options available for their missions. Our Global Xpress open system architecture supports the Wideband Global SATCOM (WGS) program, as well as military Ka-band for NATO and the Five Eyes nations.

In addition, legacy fixed Ku-band operators have attempted to respond to government needs by supplying bandwidth leased on a regional basis. This results in patchwork coverage, with irregular ‘hot’ and ‘cold’ spots for data transmission. In a cold spot, users can experience significant bandwidth drops. In contrast, we have designed the Global Xpress Ka-band system with many smaller spot beams that seamlessly provide the most consistent, uninterrupted coverage available – no AISR user is left out in the cold when pursuing high-speed connectivity in a remote area.

In terms of performance specifics, our SATCOM as a Service acquisition model backs Global Xpress with solid service level agreements (SLAs) and guaranteed committed information rates (CIRs), so users get what they ask for, and the quality of the acquired service is assured. They avoid the onerous quality of Ku-band broadcast-centric fixed transponders spectrum leasing commodity models, which force them to cobble together and manage their own network while leasing additional bandwidth in a piecemeal approach to fill in gaps – needing to guess as to when and where and how much bandwidth they will use (a scenario that inevitably leads to buying either more or less bandwidth than required). Through SATCOM as a Service, the monthly pricing for all of this is fixed, in the interest of budget certainty for our AISR customers.

When conducting missions in the air, our servicemen and women cannot afford delays – much less outright failures – in intelligence delivery. They must be able to fully focus on the task at hand, instead of harboring any doubts about the dependability of the technology supporting them. Inmarsat Global Xpress is eliminating such doubts again and again with ubiquitous global coverage, uniform guaranteed performance, seamlessly reliable network assurance and always available connectivity. If you would like to find out more about our AISR products and services from Inmarsat Government, then please contact us.


Steve Gizinski

About the author

Steve Gizinski is Chief Technology Officer of Inmarsat Government Inc., a wholly-owned subsidiary of Inmarsat plc, and the world’s leading provider of global mobile satellite communications to the United States government.