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Japan Military Satellite Communications

Satellite communications (SATCOM) can cover a wide range of area with a combination of relatively simple terrestrial infrastructure, and excels in broadcasting capability and invulnerability to natural disasters. It is one of the flexible means of communication as it is immune to communication jamming due to topography. Also, as a new operational need, there is an increasing demand for accurate command and control and prompt information sharing, which are essential for the smooth performance of duties among multiple units. SATCOM is a major piece of infrastructure in terms of meeting such needs.

Leased Capacity

The Ministry of Defense and the SDF have been using the Ka and Ku bands (high-capacity communication) for communicating with ships, sending images from helicopters, and for other purposes, utilizing commercial (general-purpose) high-speed SATCOM services. The X band (mid-capacity communication) of the Superbird Satellites is used exclusively by the Ministry of Defense for communication with ships, aircrafts, etc. X-band satellites were used by the Self-Defense Forces as a key communication tool to command and control their operation units, covering areas from the Northwest Pacific to the Indian Ocean. This type of satellites ensures a wide-area of communication and minimizes the effects of weather or geographic conditions.

The Defense Ministry was spending about 6 billion yen a year to lease a private satellite communication system. For 2012, the ministry planned to make a contract with private firms under the PFI system (Private Finance Initiative, allowing private bodies to run public institutions) in order to have the companies operate a 19-year-long program of satellite communication, including the manufacture, launch, operation, and decommissioning of satellites as well as the management of related ground facilities.

The optimal method for improving satellite communication capability in the future (use of general-purpose commercial satellites and defense-dedicated satellites, shared use with other ministries and private institutions , and use of capabilities of private operators) will be considered upon clarifying communication requirements (coverage, capacity, network integration, sustainability, etc.) and with consideration to the stability of use, form of operation (joint operation, international peace cooperation activities, etc.), cost-effectiveness, including lifecycle cost, and other points of concern.

DSN Kirameki X-band

The MOD is promoting enhancement of the C4ISR function through utilization of outer space, which does not belong to any nation’s territories and which is not constrained by conditions such as surface topography. For example, the MOD plans to launch a next-generation high-performance X-band communication satellite in FY2015.

Japanese Communist Party House of Representatives member Yoshii Hidekatsu said, “To allow the SDF to have its own military satellites is a grave issue, infringing on the peace principle of the Japanese Constitution and the 1969 Diet resolution which restricted space development to peaceful purposes. “In the 2008 Diet deliberation for the Aerospace Basic Act, which was forcibly enacted by the Liberal Democratic, Democratic, and Komei parties, I raised concerns that the law would lead to development of the military satellite communication system. With the latest plan, this concern has become reality.

“The DM is also considering possibility of introducing early-warning satellites for the missile defense program, positioning satellites for improving targeting accuracy, as well as information gathering satellites. It seeks further use of space technology for military purposes. Meanwhile, the private companies with which the government makes contracts with under the PFI system will be ‘war contractors’ dealing with the operation of military equipment for military purposes. Japan has been highly rated by the international community by its operation of the spacecraft ‘Hayabusa’ and the land observing satellite ‘Daichi’. It should stick to the promotion of the space technology for peaceful purposes.”

The Defense Ministry requested 188.1 billion yen for the 2012 fiscal year budget in order to purchase and operate two communication satellites. If the plan is implemented, they will be the first military satellites owned by the government. The Defense Ministry asserted that the next generation X-band communication satellite system will be in line with the “mobile defense capabilities” vision set by the 2010 National Defense Program Guidelines.

Development of MARS Mobile Terminal compatible with the next-generation X-Band satellite communications network (¥1.4 billion). Develop MARS mobile Terminals on ships and submarines that enable information sharing, contributing to prompt situational awareness and command by effectively utilizing broadband network realized through the re-establishment of X-Band satellite network. SKY Perfect JSAT Corporation (Head Office: Minato-ku, Tokyo; Representative Director, President & Chief Executive Officer: Shinji Takada), a wholly owned subsidiary of SKY Perfect JSAT Holdings Inc. (Head Office: Minato-ku, Tokyo; Representative Director / President: Shinji Takada), announced that DSN Corporation (Head Office: Minato-ku, Tokyo; Representative Director: Koki Koyama), a subsidiary of SKY Perfect JSAT Corporation, concluded a program contract 15 January 2013 concerning a “Program to Upgrade and Operate X-Band Satellite Communications Functions, etc.” as a Private Finance Initiative (PFI) with the Ministry of Defense.

This Program is a PFI program* to upgrade and operate Japan’s next X-band satellite communications system. Based on the Program contract, DSN will manufacture and launch two communications satellites and upgrade the ground facilities including satellite control equipment. DSN will operate, maintain, and manage the facilities and equipment from FY2015 to FY2030.

The primary business operator will be DSN, and roles will be assigned as follows to each company under the umbrella of DSN:

  • SKY Perfect JSAT: Procurement, operation, general management, etc. of the satellites for this Program
  • NEC: Production of the satellites for this Program, upgrading of ground facilities (excl. station building), etc.
  • NTT Com: Maintenance, management, etc. of ground facilities (excl. station building)
  • Maeda Corporation: Upgrading, maintenance and management of ground facilities (station building only)

SKY Perfect JSAT Corporation announced in April 2014 that it has concluded arrangements to procure Superbird 8, a successor to its Superbird-B2 communications satellite. In orbit, it will be named Superbird B3. Also aboard is the DSN 1 X-band communications payload built and operated by DSN Corporation for the Japanese Ministry of Defense. The ministry planned to launch Kirameki-1 in 2016 but it is undergoing repairs after being damaged when being transported to a launch site in French Guiana. Its launch is now scheduled for March 2018 at the earliest.

Japan launched the large DSN-2 military satellite from the Yoshinobu Launch Complex of the spaceport Tanegashima in the South-West of the country on 24 January 2017. The X-band satellite successfully reached orbit after lifting off on a Mistubishi H-IIA rocket, a spokesman from Mitsubishi Heavy Industries said. The spacecraft was built with the DS2000 bus and operated by DSN Corporation, a subsidiary of SKY Perfect JSAT Corporation, as part of development and operation of X-band satellite communications for the Japanese Ministry of Defense.

The satellite, dubbed Kirameki [meaning spark, glitter, glimmer, sparkle, twinkle], was the first of its kind to be launched by the Defense Ministry. It will be used to relay information about ballistic missile launches, as well as video of Self-Defense Force units deployed overseas. Satellite «Kirameki-2» will operate over the Indian ocean and used for the Japanese contingent of UN peacekeepers in southern Sudan and the area of the fight against sea pirates off the coast of Somalia.

Tokyo expected to send three X-band satellites into orbit over the coming years to quadruple the nation’s broadband capacity. The ministry had 3 privately-launched communications satellites. But 2 of them had reached the end of their operational life. It planned to launch 2 more Kirameki satellites in coming years.

The total cost for the three is 230 billion yen ($2.48 billion), the ministry said. The third satellite in this series is scheduled to be sent into orbit at the end of the 2020 financial year, that is actually at the beginning of 2021. The satellite «Kirameki-1» will operate over the Pacific ocean, and «Kirameki-3» — over the territory of Japan. All these satellites are designed for 15 years of work and used for communications in X-band.

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Page last modified: 24-01-2017 19:30:00 ZULU