Boeing Targets DoD With Two Plans

By | September 27, 2004 | Feature

The Boeing Co. [BA] is pursuing U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) communications networking business opportunities that depend on satellites.

Last week, Boeing showed it was willing to invest in innovative technology by demonstrating that its new mobile theater-of-operations directional communications technology can give soldiers secure intelligence data from a variety of sources at speeds three orders of magnitude (or 1,000 times) faster than existing systems. The company also announced the creation of a strategic alliance with IBM [IBM] aimed at tapping an estimated $200 billion market for ground- and space-based systems needed to upgrade the nation’s military communications, intelligence operations and homeland security.

Gary Nelson, manager of communications architectures at Boeing Phantom Works, laid out his view of how Boeing can enable network-centric operations by providing thousands of times more data capacity than current systems. Boeing Phantom Works is developing the military communications system to provide assured communications and information integrity that is free from “adversarial attack,” Nelson said. The communications also are both secure and military-capable.

The proposed system Boeing is demonstrating operates as a network, automatically relaying data forward, distributing pictures, voice over IP and maps with the location of friendly forces as well as the enemy’s location. This system could be field-ready in 2006, Nelson said.

“We are talking to all of the joint forces about how they can apply this technology,” Nelson said. “Six years ago, Boeing saw that a fundamental constraint of network-centric operations was a lack of data capacity to forward users, especially in the forward military operations.”

Serving Soliders

Soldiers on the front lines use satellites for virtually all communications, Nelson pointed out. However, limited military access to satellite time to match its current level of demand is a growing problem. The new technology would help to overcome having too many users for too little capacity.

“Today, a signal from a ship would need to go to a satellite, back to the United States to a network operating station, then back to a satellite and onward to another ship,” Nelson said. “This system takes the satellite information and relays it beyond line of sight in the military theater of operations. This makes more efficient use of the satellite system by distributing the locally needed data in a theater network.” Another key feature of the technology is that the transmitter cannot be detected.

The IBM Connection

Boeing’s alliance with IBM will establish two competency centers at Boeing’s satellite factory in El Segundo, Calif., where engineering teams will develop software and digital communications technologies. The technologies would be critical for network-centric operations where satellites, aircraft, ships, submarines, tanks, radios and handheld computers share information using the same interfaces and standards.

One program expected to benefit from the alliance is the U.S. Air Force Transformational Communications Satellite program (TSAT). Boeing is developing a system design for a secure, high-capacity global communications network serving the DoD and other agencies, and the Air Force expects to award a TSAT space segment production contract in 2006.

(Gary Nelson, Boeing Phantom Works, 253/773-9373)

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