U.S. Army Col. Patrick H. Rayermann
Chief, Space and Missile Defense Division
Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations and Plans
he successful launch Oct. 10 of the U.S. military’s first Wideband Global Satcom (WGS) satellite will begin to address what U.S. Army Col. Patrick Rayermann says is the service’s most pressing need in terms of space-related capabilities: additional bandwidth.
Today commercial systems provide some 80 percent of the satellite bandwidth used by U.S. forces in Iraq, with the remaining 20 percent coming from the military’s own fleets. Rayermann believes the planned six-satellite WGS system along with others slated for deployment in the coming years will make it possible to reverse that ratio by 2014.
As the Army’s dedicated point man on space and missile defense issues in Washington, Rayermann also pays close attention to a relatively new area of activity called Operationally Responsive Space, or ORS, a term that refers to satellite capabilities that can be deployed relatively quickly in response to emerging military needs.
Rayermann spoke recently with Space News deputy editor Warren Ferster and staff writer Turner Brinton.
What, exactly, does
mean to you?
Historically, the space capabilities that we built were on time scales of months and years to get a capability on orbit. Today
, space technology and space systems are mature enough that we can begin to talk about having systems that actually respond to or are built with the needs of tactical and operational forces for information
on time scales as short as an hour, maybe even as quick as 20 minutes.
The Pentagon report submitted to Congress has three tiers for ORS. The objective of Tier 1
is to do things that improve the responsiveness of resources we already have. Tier 2
aims to develop off-the-shelf kinds of resources that will be ready to put into orbit in a rapid manner, and Tier 3
aims to take the larger
projects that may have taken a decade or longer in the past and prepare
them in maybe 18 months or two years.
A lot of that will mean making systems smaller. Now smaller isn’t the answer for everything, but it may allow us to test concepts, prove new approaches and have capabilities that can be orbited in a very responsive manner on a rapid time scale, whereas building large spacecraft and orbiting them requires
much greater lead times and tougher integration problems.
How invested is the Pentagon’s top brass in the ORS concept?
I don’t think anyone has drawn firm conclusions today that say absolutely ORS will work, or ORS will be the savior. But in order to find out what the art of the possible is, you have to be willing to invest, to spend some time, some dollar resources and some human resources in investigating what those possibilities might be.
In terms of space-related capabilities, what is the Army’s greatest need right now?
In the Army Space Master Plan distributed in February 2006, we identified the No. 1
gap area which should be prioritized to provide more of is communications. And that shouldn’t be a huge surprise. That’s because we keep coming up, in all mission areas, all battlefield operating systems, all services, with new information to share, new ways to share it, and new means of collecting and analyzing information.
It’s pretty well documented that in
operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom today, roughly
of the communications we’re using is commercial. The Army certainly would like to see a larger percentage of that provided by military systems. Not necessarily where you get to 100 percent, but the ratio perhaps ought to be more on the order of 80 percent milsatcom and 20 percent commercial satcom.
Is reversing the 80-20 ratio of commercial vs. military satellite bandwidth a realistic goal?
Based on what we project for Army information exchange requirements which we believe should be met by satellite communications in 2014, we will be able to invert that percentage. But if you invert that percentage, the raw commercial throughput of 2014 would be the about same as it is today. We’ll be using new military satellite systems – the Advanced Extremely High Frequency System, the Wideband Global Satcom system and the Mobile User Objective System, to meet our ever-growing total information exchange needs.
You did not mention the Transformational Satellite, or T-Sat, system, which in any case will not be available until after 2014. Is there less urgency associated with this system than we’ve been led to believe?
We don’t see it that way. One, the demand curve is projected to continue to increase over time. What that line or curve exactly turns out to be we’ll figure it out in 50 or 100 years. It’s very hard to predict today, but it’s increasing. Two, WGS is not designed to meet all the communications-on-the-move requirements that the Army knows it has as it fields its Future Combat System. We are dubious that there is an appropriate way to modify the next-generation set of spacecraft to meet those needs. We continue to believe that T-Sat is the right solution to help the Army and the rest of the military meet these needs as we go into the latter half of the next decade and beyond.
What is the Army’s role in the proposed European missile defense site, and what challenges do you face there?
The Army is the lead service for the ground-based interceptors. So we will
be responsible, consistent with whatever results from the negotiations with the proposed host nation, for operations and sustainment of the site. The Missile Defense Agency will build and initially help maintain the missile field complex
, although over time the maintenance is supposed to transfer to the Army.
From the Army perspective, we don’t have a final decision to actually deploy. So if we are given that order and the timelines as we understand them hold, achieving that deployment within those timelines will cause a lot of folks to do a lot of work. The other big challenge that hasn’t been completely defined yet
is what the Army’s responsibilities will be in terms of
the installation of the third site. There are some military construction requirements that would have to be addressed and there are some questions regarding tour lengths and kinds of tours we’d use to assign soldiers to that installation. If you have soldiers there on site, whether they’re maintaining, operating or guarding it, you may or may not have families there. You need to think about housing, medical and dining facilities. And you have to think about how the overall facility is secured and what role the host nation will take.
Should the Army get into the business of building and operating space systems?
I would not want
to absolutely rule that out and say that the Army should not have it as an option, to build payloads and possibly entire spacecraft that meet its needs.
But at the current time, the Army doesn’t see that kind of thing as one of its core competencies.
Is the Space Radar program as currently structured as responsive to tactical requirements as you would like?
Space Radar may not, when fielded, do everything exactly as originally envisioned. But the Army continues to see tremendous benefit from that kind of capability. Without Space Radar one would have to find an alternative, and there is not even an inkling of creating an alternative program.
I can’t guarantee the future, but I can assure you that the military services and the intelligence community are continuing to work this, and if at some point in time the Army were to realize that this system is not going to help meet
needs, then we’d probably turn to other alternatives
. But I don’t specifically see any indicators that that’s going to happen.
The European RapidEye venture is planning a five-satellite system to capture imagery at 5-meter resolution. Is this a capability that the Army is interested in?
Five-meter-resolution imagery has utility from a military perspective. I believe the Army submitted an assessment to the [National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency]
about three years ago describing the utility of 5-meter
resolution imagery. But in terms of some of the other demands we have, it is not as pressing. On the other hand, to bring you back to the Army Space Master Plan, our No. 2
priority was for improved space-based intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance. And this might be a very affordable way to help improve that capability.
In light of the latest troubles with the Space Based Infrared System, should the Pentagon accelerate efforts to field a follow-on system?
There’s been lots of Monday morning quarterbacking already with the SBIRS program, and we could debate and discuss that at great length. The first SBIRS package is on orbit today, and it seems to be performing well. So I’m not entirely sure that changing away from SBIRS at the current time would make whatever challenge they’ve encountered go away.