Chapter 5: Navy Involvement in Space Activities in the Post Cold War Era
5.1 Trends in satellite support to naval operations
The end of the Cold War and the experience of DESERT STORM have had a profound impact on the DOD and national space communities. The end of the Cold War left organizations such as the NRO and NSA (even the CIA), who justified their budgets previously in terms of national strategic imperatives, scrambling for funding. These organizations are now focusing on "support to military operations" as the keystone of their long-term fiscal survival. Similarly, criticism of the poor availability, quality, and timeliness of support provided to U.S. forces in DESERT STORM by the national intelligence community has elevated support for military operations to the highest priority. It might be expected that "space support for the warfighter" (a U.S. Space Command phrase) should be expanding at an accelerated late. This expectation is, however, only partially true-for a number of interesting reasons.
The DESERT STORM perceptions were a reflection for the most part on the poor collection management, communications, and data handling capabilities of the fighting forces, rather than a shortfall in space-based collection capabilities. The Navy has addressed DESERT STORM limitations in several important ways:
- Significant improvements have been made in connecting ships and afloat staffs to sources of information.
- Aircraft carriers, large amphibious ships, and fleet flagships now have SHF communications (via the Defense Satellite Communications System) which, if managed properly, permit timely access to databases ashore.
- Aircraft carriers and large amphibious ships are being modified, under a program called CHALLENGE ATHENA, to permit two-way access to high capacity commercial satellite communications.
- One aircraft carrier, one large amphibious ship, and one Aegis cruiser have received upgrades for a prototype Global Broadcast System which permits delivery (one way) of exceptionally large databases and live video, on demand.
- Great strides are being made in providing ships and afloat staffs with data processing tools required to obtain, digest, and use information collected by satellite systems:
-The Joint Maritime Command Information System (JMCIS) has evolved from a variety of afloat data processing concepts and represents a tightly integrated network of capabilities for managing and manipulating information.
-The Joint Deployable Intelligence Support System (JDISS), a "hobby shop" effort that has evolved into a joint program, is found on all aircraft carriers, large amphibious ships, and fleet flagships. JDISS provides rapid access, via SHF satellite communications, to the tactical databases of theater and national intelligence centers.
- A Navy TENCAP project, called Radiant Mercury, has developed the first fully automated sanitization and downgrading system certified for use with formatted intelligence information. Acquisition of "Mercury" terminals will begin in FY 97. Prototype systems have been installed at several Fleet CINC headquarters and theater intelligence centers where they are used to automatically generate tactical broadcasts for U.S. Navy ships and allied forces that do not have direct access to highly-classified databases.
5.2 Trends in satellite technology for tactical support
The budget downturn that has affected all of the Department of Defense has had an impact on satellite systems as well. The following paragraphs provide brief summaries of the decisions made during the early 1990s concerning future satellite systems.
For the foreseeable future, the fleet will have access to UHF, SHE and limited EHF service between 70 degrees North and 70 degrees South latitude (see figure 20). Polar (i.e., Arctic) coverage will depend on the progress of the Milstar program which has been slow to mature but seems likely to survive the budget axe.
The Transit navigation satellite system is no longer operational. The Global Positioning System is the sole U.S. navigation satellite system for civil and military use.
5.2.3 Environmental sensing
The Navy has no service-unique meteorological or oceanographic satellite programs planned, beyond contributing sensors to other programs from time to time.
5.3 Future roles and missions in space
The Navy depends more on satellites and satellite-derived information as part of day-today operations than the other services. Since the mid-1980s, however, the Navy has been content to let other services and organizations spend their money on space systems the Navy can then exploit As a short term strategy in a fiscally-constrained environment this philosophy has some merit. As this document has described, however, the Navy's influence as a source of significant innovation in the U.S. military space program is waning. The fiscal pressures that are driving the Navy to a three-hundred (and perhaps a two-hundred) ship Navy are also reducing Navy competence in the development and operation of satellite systems, almost to the point of extinction.
The Navy manages to retain some leverage in military space activities in several important ways:
- Operation. Naval Security Group and Naval Space Command personnel are involved directly in the operation of a number of satellite systems that support the fleet.
- Science and Technology. Small pockets of knowledge and talent survive in organizations such as the Naval Center for Space Technology at NRL.
- Technical applications. SPAWAR and its supporting laboratories and field activities are leaders in devising workable solutions to the problems of gaining access to satellite sensors and communications.
- Fleet support. Naval Space Command continues to build and refine its capabilities to provide space-based support to fleet operations.
- Innovation. Navy TENCAP pushes constantly at the limits of what is possible and permissible in the application of national reconnaissance systems to satisfy fleet and joint requirements.
- Analysis. The Center for Naval Analyses has a small core of analysts who have been working on space-related problems for 14 years and have earned excellent reputations, particularly in the area of measuring the effectiveness of using satellite systems in operational scenarios.
- Academia. The Naval Postgraduate School has a small but surprisingly active space curriculum, and a faculty that is able to undertake research in many areas of space science, engineering, and operations.
- National systems. The Navy continues to influence the design and operation of national satellite systems through the presence of personnel experienced in naval warfare and the technical expertise of Aerospace Engineering Duty Officers in the NRO.
The Navy has, for most of the four decades of the space age, succeeded in leveraging heavy U.S. investments in national and DOD satellite systems by combining four elements in consistently innovative ways:
- An unwavering commitment to fleet support
- A clear vision of space as an interesting "place" from which to perform important functions (rather than a "mission" or theater of operations).
- A "long pole" of technical and scientific competence
- A "fulcrum" of strategically-placed funding
Post-Cold War Navy activities with respect to space do not indicate any diminishing of emphasis on the first two factors. It is, however, impossible to "leverage" without the second two as well.