DOD awards high-speed broadcast service pact

HONOLULU - U.S. forces operating in the Pacific will have the first opportunity to tap into a military version of the DirecTV satellite service, and top commanders here have ambitious plans for the system, including everything from sending digital maps to troops in the field to beaming military instructors' lectures to classrooms thousands of miles away.

The Defense Department last month awarded Hughes Information Systems the contract to build the Global Broadcast Service system. Under the contract, which has a potential value of up to $200 million, Hughes will provide the GBS terminals, software, integration and support services.

The terminals will tune into information broadcast by powerful Ka-band transponders operating from Navy satellites that were built by Hughes Space and Communications, which developed the highly successful commercial DirecTV service.

The first of three GBS-equipped satellites will be launched over the Pacific Ocean next year. Satellites designed to cover the Atlantic and Indian oceans are scheduled for launch in 1999. GBS will be capable of delivering data at a speed of 30 megabits/sec to dishes as small as 22 inches in diameter, making it feasible to send information directly to Navy ships at sea. Adm. Archie Clemins, commander in chief of the Pacific Fleet, views GBS as the core networking technology of the Navy's Information Technology for the 21st Century project, which Clemins designed to tie together disparate and incompatible naval tactical and administrative systems on shore and at sea. The Navy plans to install GBS terminals on 23 ships in key carrier battle groups and amphibious ready groups in the next two years. The receivers will be equipped with advanced World Wide Web browser technology that will allow users to surf through "4,000 channels of information," Clemins said.The Navy plans to use the GBS satellites to send high-speed data and video - such as live feeds from unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), which fly over the world's political hot spots to gather intelligence data - directly to Pacific Fleet ships, Clemins said. Users on those ships will use advanced Web browsers to request information over slower-speed 64 kilobits/sec satellite links.

Marine Col. Bob Shea, director of command, control, communications and computer systems for the Pacific Command, said initial GBS service in the theater will involve wide-band transmissions to relatively large, fixed receiver sites, with installation of smaller dishes on mobile platforms coming later. Shea said the U.S. Forces Korea will receive the first GBS installations, with eight fixed antennas installed to support key commands in South Korea.Shea said the Pacific Command believes the high-data-rate GBS system "has a lot of potential in the theater" and envisions commands using it to deliver everything from Tomahawk missile targeting data to DOD's distance-learning programs.

Hughes tapped Microsoft Corp. to provide its "Broadcast PC," an advanced version of the commercial WebTV service, which allows people to use their TV sets as Web terminals. Broadcast PC is slated for inclusion in the upcoming Windows 98 operating system, and the software will be the key information management tool of the military GBS system. The software allows users to watch a regular TV program - in the case of GBS, a video feed from a UAV - while surfing "Internet channels" such as intelligence databases on GBS.Tim McCormick, program manager for government contracts at Microsoft Federal, said the GBS contract also calls for Microsoft to provide its Windows NT Workstation and NT Server technology, SQL Server and a router technology called Steelhead. "This contract is a good example of the government using [commercial off-the-shelf] products to deliver mission-critical solutions and, at the same time, significantly driving down the costs the government must incur, " McCormick said. "This takes COTS to a whole new level."Bob O'Rourke, Hughes Information's vice president and the company's program manager, said the DOD contract calls for the company to deliver three GBS uplinks and about 100 receiver terminals. About 25 of those will be large dishes installed at fixed sites, and the other 75 will be smaller, transportable terminals.

O'Rourke said GBS will provide the military with "revolutionary capabilities...[based on] a design concept that maximizes the use of rapidly evolving commercial broadcast and Web technology while ensuring that unique military capabilities, such as security and ruggedness, are fulfilled."Raytheon E-Systems, Boeing Co. and Lockheed-Martin Corp. also bid on the GBS contract.


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