BOSTON — The U.S. Air Force has taken the first steps toward developing an upgraded version of satellite communications jamming equipment that was first deployed in 2004.
The Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center in Los Angeles will host classified sessions Feb. 27-28 to brief industry on its goals for the upgraded Counter Communications System, according to a Feb. 6 posting on the Federal Business Opportunities Web site. The system is frequently referred to as CounterCom or CCS, and the notice refers to the planned upgrade as CCS Block 20.
The CounterCom system is a mobile, ground-based antenna that can jam the signals from a single satellite in geosynchronous orbit. The Air Force’s 2008 budget request includes funding to field additional CounterCom antennas to enable troops assigned to the counterspace mission to block transmissions from more satellites than they are capable of jamming today, according to a senior Air Force official who briefed reporters at the Pentagon on Feb. 5.
Candrea Thomas, a spokeswoman for the Space and Missile Systems Center, said that program officials were not available to answer written questions about the CounterCom budget, current capabilities or the upgrade plans. The CounterCom budget request for 2008 is included in the $76.3 million request for counterspace systems. An Air Force document distributed to reporters at the budget briefing showed that the funding requests for the counterspace account are expected to grow to $133.5 million in 2009, and continue increasing by a few million dollars annually through 2013.
Air Force budget documents in 2007 had indicated that the service planned to request $17.9 million for the CounterCom program in 2008, $29.9 million in 2009, $31.6 million in 2010, and $21.7 million in 2011.
The Air Force plans to award at least one study contract worth about $5 million in late 2007 or early 2008 that is intended to provide analysis of the requirements for CCS Block 20, according to the industry day notice, which does not specify the types of upgrades that the service envisions for CCS Block 20.
However, the notice asks interested contractors to provide documentation of their experience and lessons learned through working on “ground-based and mobile” offensive counter space systems (OCS), integrating commercially available radio frequency components and radio frequency signal processing. The notice states that the contractors should focus their abstracts on ideas based on commercially available components with minimal development of new technology.
The new system should be designed to easily accommodate new components that become available, according to the notice. “This capability is necessary to rapidly address the ever increasing number of technologies and assets available to our adversaries and support in the integration of new, dynamic OCS technologies,” according to the notice.
The Air Force has not yet decided whether it wants the CSS Block 20 system to be based on the design for the current CounterCom hardware, or whether it wants contractors to take a fresh approach, according to the notice.
CounterCom is categorized among OCS systems, which the Air Force 2007 budget document defines as having “the means to disrupt, deny, degrade, or destroy an adversary’s space systems, or the information they provide, which may be used for purposes hostile to U.S. national security interests.”
Air Force officials have described CounterCom as using temporary measures to interfere with enemy communications signals. During the Feb. 5 briefing at the Pentagon, the senior Air Force official pointed to CounterCom as the primary example of an Air Force counterspace program, and said that the service does not want to develop systems that could damage or destroy satellites because of the danger of creating debris in space that could endanger other satellites.
The absence of debris issues has helped the CounterCom program escape much of the criticism that has plagued Air Force efforts to develop kinetic energy anti-satellite weapons. Theresa Hitchens, director of the Center for Defense Information, a Washington-based think tank, said she opposes the development of anti-satellite weapons, but is not concerned about the CounterCom system because it is similar to jamming equipment that the military has used for a long time, and is not likely to encourage other countries to pursue the development of destructive systems that could cause debris.
Michael Krepon, president emeritus of the Stimson Center, another Washington-based think tank, said that he has not included systems like CounterCom as part of his push to encourage the United States and other countries to sign onto a code of conduct for space operations because adding an activity like jamming that is already a widely accepted aspect of military operations to the equation would likely kill any chance for adopting an agreement.