Canadian Forces seeks bids for portable Wideband Global Satcom terminals

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VICTORIA, British Columbia – The Canadian military will buy portable satellite communications terminals to allow its commanders on overseas mission to make use of the U.S. Air Force’s Wideband Global Satcom (WGS) military satellite communications system.

The Canadian Forces wants to buy three types of strategic deployable terminals, Royal Canadian Air Force spokesman Maj. Scott Spurr said.

WGS satellites Air Force
WGS satellites. Credit: Boeing

One type would be capable of being operated by an individual and would be small enough to be able to be transported as carry-on luggage on an aircraft.  A second type would be the size of check-in luggage, and have an increased ability to transmit information to the digital battlefield.

The third type, called the Heavy Strategic Deployable Terminal, would be able to provide a deployable very high data throughput capability and would be operated by a small team at headquarters level.

Spurr said the terminals will allow the Canadian Forces to deliver voice, image and data between deployed headquarters and commanders back in Canada. “The participants on these missions, at home and abroad, greatly benefit from this robust, high bandwidth satellite communications system,” he added.

Interested companies have until Dec. 8 to submit their bids.

The Canadian military has set aside up to 20 million Canadian dollars ($15 million) for the project to acquire the deployable terminals.

Canada announced in late 2011 it was joining the WGS program, contributing $337 million for construction of the ninth satellite as well as operational support costs. Canada is investing as part of a consortium that includes four other countries, all of which will gain access to the system in proportion to their individual contributions: Denmark, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and New Zealand. In exchange for its financial contribution, the Canadian Forces will have access to the Wideband Global Satellite system until 2031.

The Canadian military has already been using the WGS network through interim satellite ground terminals or through allied systems. That use began in May 2012.

In addition it is spending another $59 million to construct three anchor stations in Canada for the WGS system. In 2014 General Dynamics Canada Ltd. of Ottawa, Ontario was awarded the contact to build those stations. The anchor stations will allow communication with the Wideband Global satellite constellation and link that to the existing Canadian Forces communications infrastructure.

Spurr said the strategic deployable terminals to be purchased would provide seamless interoperability via the Wideband Global satellites to the anchor stations as well as allied WGS-certified stations.

The Canadian military was spending approximately $25 million per year on satellite communications capacity acquired from commercial operators. The cost to maintain that status quo was expected to increase significantly during the next 20 years, according to military officers.

The Canadian government has said it decided to take part in WGS because its military needed assured access to satellite communications instead of relying on commercial capacity. In addition, participation in WGS is cheaper than using commercial services, government officials added.

The Canadian Forces spends approximately $25 million per year on its satcom requirements, which are achieved through the as-required lease of commercial satellite bandwidth, government officials pointed out. The cost to maintain that status quo is expected to increase significantly over the next 20 years, they said.

While examining its options for future satellite communications requirements, the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Forces considered two other alternatives: continue leasing bandwidth as needed, and pursue long-term commercial leases in accordance with ongoing and anticipated operational requirements. Based on its analysis, it was determined that pursuing the WGS partnership was the most operationally and cost-effective option, military officials said.