The Threat and Doctrine
There is no current agreement within the Department of Defense or outside it as to the exact nature of the threats the Army will face in the future. A broad debate has emerged over how much the US should focus on the needs of current wars, future conventional wars that may eventually involve peer threats, and irregular wars that can range from counterinsurgency and counterterrorism to armed nation building. This debate also focuses on whether US forces will have to deter or defeat a conventional and nuclear-armed regional competitor, or fight largely non-linear and unconventional counterinsurgency wars and conduct stability operations. The classic risk that the US military may prepare to fight the last war is also compounded by the risk that it may focus too much on fighting the present wars in Iraq and Afghanistan or prepare for a future enemy it will never face. Military planners have always faced the problem that the cumulative probability of one of many low probability scenarios actually occurring may be higher than the more probable scenarios they focus upon. This risk is now much higher than during the Cold War, particularly given the 20 to 30 year life cycle of the equipment the FCS program must equip the Army to fight with. This means that there is no safe way to rigidly suboptimize the FCS, or any aspect of Army planning, around a given set of threats. The Army must prepare to deal with a range of threats that include terror and subversion, irregular and insurgent warfare, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, conventionally armed ballistic missiles, information warfare capabilities, anti-satellite weaponry, high-speed cruise missiles and other threats from hostile and potentially unstable nuclear states, such as Iran, North Korea, and Pakistan.
Anti-satellite weapons (ASAT) are space weapons designed to incapacitate or destroy satellites for strategic military purposes. Currently, only the United States, the former USSR (now Russia) and the People's Republic of China are known to have developed these weapons. On January 11, 2007, China destroyed an old orbiting weather satellite. The United States also destroyed a malfunctioning reconnaissance satellite on February 21, 2008.
Another area of research was into directed energy weapons, including a nuclear-explosion powered X-ray laser proposal developed at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) in 1968. Other research was based on more conventional lasers or masers and developed to include the idea of a satellite with a fixed laser and a deployable mirror for targeting. LLNL continued to consider more edgy technology but their X-ray laser system development was canceled in 1977 (although research into X-ray lasers was resurrected during the 1980s as part of the SDI).
Transformational Communications Satellite (TSAT)
The availability of complimentary systems poses a further challenge. The Air Force‘s Transformational Communications Satellite (TSAT) is just one such complimentary system or enabler. 73 ―Besides creating a virtually jam-proof environment and providing much larger bandwidth, the TSAT‘s internet protocol routing will connect end users through a network instead of the traditional and limiting point-to-point connections. This capability will make it the hub of joint communications architecture in the future.‖74 It will also be 100 times faster than current military satellites.
The TSAT‘s development has been anything but expeditious. It has experienced significant technical difficulties resulting in schedule slips and cost overruns. After a long history of these cost overruns and delays, the program has suffered repeated budget cuts of over 75 percent. Its contract award has most recently been shelved for another two
years and current plans do not conceive launching the system before 2019, four years after the Army plans to deploy its first FCS-equipped unit. 75 This lack of congressional support has caused the program to be cut from five to four satellites and appropriations incrementally reduced from original estimates of over $20 billion to $6.5 billion.76 The contract award itself, slated for late 2008 was shelved until late 2010, until in late December the DoD decided to cancel the competition altogether and issue guidelines for a new, more scaled down contract.77 FCS program officials feel, however, that the importance of TSAT for the fielding of the FCS must be kept in perspective. FCS does not require TSAT for its initial fielding, they say. However, it will be able to interface with TSAT as soon as it becomes available. The impact of a delay in TSAT will be minimal since there are currently no FCS SATCOM dependencies on TSAT.
TSAT will increase bandwidth and it will downsize in volume and weight the Warfighter Information Network-Tactical (WIN-T) on which the FCS relies primarily for seamless and integrated communication. It will enhance the flexibility, performance, and robustness of the warfighter through increased data rates and a lowered probability of
interception. Besides bandwidth, it will add redundancy to the FCS communication network to make it more robust, survivable, scalable, and reliable. Satellite communications is however only one of three tiers of the FCS network transport layer.