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The Military Satellite Communications (MILSATCOM) system consists primarily of three systems: the Defense Satellite Communications System (DSCS), the Fleet Satellite Communications (FLTSAT) System, and the Air Force Satellite Communications (AFSATCOM) System. DSCS provides by far the greatest transmission capacity with some antijam capability. The FLTSAT and AFSATCOM systems have a very small transmission capacity, with no antijam capability. The Army has approximately 200 DSCS ground mobile force (GMF) terminals which use 8- or 20-foot satellite dishes.

These terminals are normally found at EAC, corps and division headquarters. The extended operations of Operation DESERT STORM highlighted the need for use of these long-range systems at levels below division. The FLTSAT and AFSATCOM systems utilize small mantransportable terminals, and are used primarily for command nets. All three services share these systems with NCA, CINCs, JCS and other government users. Access to MILSATCOM systems is determined on a priority basis. Prior to Operations DESERT SHIELD and DESERT STORM, the low priority of the tactical users at theater and below resulted in minimal use of MILSATCOM for peacetime training or in operational situations. In Operations DESERT SHIELD and DESERT STORM, the tactical user priority was recognized, and MILSATCOM service was provided from all available resources. Commercial satellites have been required in Grenada, Panama, and extensively in Operation DESERT STORM to augment MILSATCOM services.


At the beginning of Operation DESERT SHIELD, the CENTCOM satellite usage was very limited. Once Operation DESERT STORM began, satellite usage increased over a hundredfold. In excess of 1,500 satellite communications terminals were deployed to theater, of which over 75 percent were single-channel manportable military and commercial units. The satellite usage requirement was for both inter- and intra-theater communications. Intra-theater satellite communications were especially important because of the vast operational area in which there did not already exist a communications infrastructure. Fifty percent of the satellite communications traffic was carried by over 100 DSCS terminals. Large commercial INTELSAT terminals provided another 25 percent. The remaining 25 percent included FLTSAT, AFSATCOM, and commercial Inmarsat manportable terminals.

"This communications device (TACSAT) proved indispensable and became our primary means of coordinating our actions with 1AD and 1ID to our flanks and the VII Corps staff."

A 3d Armored Division Commander

Figure 8. Soldiers using a small SATCOM Radio

OBSERVATION: Military and commercial satellite communications were used extensively during Operations DESERT SHIELD and DESERT STORM.

DISCUSSION: Operations DESERT SHIELD and DESERT STORM satellite communications usage required the vast majority of available resources. User demand for satellite communications required many impromptu actions. These actions included the movement of satellites, use of experimental satellites, and extensive commercial augmentation. Also, many satellites were aging past their engineered life expectancy. The dispersion and rapid movement of forces required satellite communications to be provided to users at echelons below where such communications were usually employed. Single-channel MILSATCOM was used extensively for command and control from EAC down through corps and division levels. When units deployed beyond line of sight, FM retransmission and line-of-sight relays could not be established.

LESSON(S): Contingencies need to be examined in advance and satellite communications plans prepared for those contingencies. The plans need to consider the characteristics of the theater, such as topography and size, as well as supporting commercial and military satellite communications available.

Peacetime contingency forces must train with these plans.

Additional GMF single-channel and multichannel terminals must be procured and TO& allocated to meet the requirements. Future satellite payloads need to offset lifetime performance degradation. Satellite systems must be able to adjust/expand bandwidth to support real-time operations.

Future doctrine must reflect this new way of doing business.

OBSERVATION: Commercial satellite communications were required to augment MILSATCOM systems.

DISCUSSION: Existing and future commercial systems can effectively augment MILSATCOM systems in future operational environments. Specific examples of commercial satellite usage include the use of INTELSAT for large capacity traffic at higher echelon commands and the use of Inmarsat secure manportable terminals. Also very important for soldier morale and welfare was the use of commercial systems for soldiers to call home.

LESSON(S): Incorporate commercial satellites communications into contingency planning and training.

OBSERVATION: Some DSCS and commercial satellite hardware were uncomfortably large for tactical use.

DISCUSSION: Initially, 8-foot DSCS antennas were used. To increase the traffic throughput in the region, higher gain 20-foot antennas were required. The higher gain antennas reduced satellite output power levels so more terminals could access the satellite. The higher gain antennas also allowed for operation over a wider area of the satellite footprint and more efficient satellite operations. These much larger antennas have the disadvantage of being more visible for enemy detection, less mobile, and more difficult to transport into theater. Existing and future satellite system designs must consider the terminal size requirements of the tactical user.

LESSON(S): The operational tradeoffs of using small antennas versus large antennas (mobility, detection, transport, coverage area, number of users) must be fully considered. The commander's priorities will influence users' access to satellite systems (mobility/survivability vs control).

Optimize the use of current antenna technology for reducing weight and size, while increasing gain.

OBSERVATION: Nets below division experienced considerable self-jamming or poor signal quality.

DISCUSSION: Self-jamming problems resulted from inadequate frequency planning and improper net operations, including unauthorized channel usage and poor site selection. Software to support frequency management was inadequate to perform timely frequency allocations. The rapid buildup of satellite communications assets in the region and the increase in nonconventional and often inexperienced users caused some satellite communication assets to be overloaded and jammed.

LESSON(S): The net operating procedures must be clearly understood by all users.

Figure 9. DSCS Ground Terminal

Develop, distribute, and implement the Joint Communications-Electronics Operating Instructions (JCEOI) prior to deployment.

Improve frequency management software.

Train for and utilize proper site selection procedures.

OBSERVATION: The Military Intelligence Community required secure communication allocations far in excess of allocated resources.

DISCUSSION: Policy calls for communication networks to carry a wide variety of information. During Operation DESERT STORM, the Trojan Spirit system augmented data transmission capabilities for the intelligence community.

LESSON(S): Intelligence operations may need special-purpose communications.

Users required/desired far more imagery products than were designed or anticipated.

Table of Contents
Chapter 3: Tactical Missile Early Warning
Appendix A: Glossary of Acronyms and Terms

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