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Increased Space Communications, Radar Needed: Analyst

By | May 30, 2006

      U.S. military forces require greater space-based communications systems, and also need Space Based Radar, a noted analyst said.

      Because the United States is the lone superpower on the planet, it requires an array of platforms with global reach, including communications and radar in space, said Daniel Goure, vice president of the Lexington Institute, a think tank near the Pentagon that focuses on defense and other issues.

      Space provides American forces with critical capabilities needed for worldwide operations, Goure said before a military deployment forum of the Heritage Foundation, a conservative Washington think tank.

      The critical role that space plays, Goure explained, can be seen in the Global positioning System, or GPS. This has wrought sweeping changes in military operations, and civilian activities as well, by permitting the capture of precise location information “without having to have terrestrial references,” he noted. “It has revolutionized everything” in terms of navigation and movement of platforms, personnel and materiel.

      With U.S. forces deployed around the globe, a growing need for communications in any area may be filled by satellites, he said.

      As well, with Space Based Radar, the military gain an unblinking eye providing constant surveillance and targeting information, he noted. This is “part and parcel of being global,” and operating in any region at any time.

      A team led by Northrop Grumman Corp. [NOC] is developing system concepts and architectures as part of the first phase of this program. This effort will lead to the definition of an affordable, sustainable Space Radar capability that will define the future of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, according to Northrop.

      Goure also provided a much broader focus on defense issues, expressing concern that the United States isn’t providing sufficiently for defense of the nation.

      His comments come as lawmakers are considering legislation to finance military programs such as weapons platform procurement, and to authorize such programs, for the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, 2007, and beyond.

      Congress needs to provide greater support to underfunded military forces, including not only purchase of space assets, but also acquisition of C-17 transport aircraft, a new fleet of aerial refueling planes, Navy ships and more, Goure said.

      “We are underfunding national security,” he said. “We need to spend more” in defense of the United States.

      In contrast, some lawmakers wish to cut, defer or kill procurement programs, rather than raising total acquisition funding, targeting the F-22A Raptor,

      F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and F/A-18E/F Super Hornet aircraft, the C-17 transport plane, DD(X) destroyer, CVN 21 aircraft carrier, Virginia Class submarines, and more.

      Goure sees a need for the sole superpower to obtain more C-17s to maintain global reach, as well as new aerial refueling tanker aircraft. “You need tankers in large numbers,” he said. And the United States needs to acquire and deploy Global Hawk unmanned aerial vehicles, which have tremendous range enabling them to fly to Australia and back, he noted. UAVs can serve as communications network nodes in place of satellites.

      He also urged procurement of nuclear submarines that can rove around the globe without refueling, unlike diesel powered subs.

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