Last week, satellite manufacturers and operators met with the Air Force in El Segundo for a frank exchange about the role of commercial satellites in Pathfinder 2. Pathfinder is an initiative within the Air Force looking to build bridges with the commercial satellite industry in an effort to buy smarter SATCOM.
Currently, the Air Force pays the bills for UAV programs, such as Predator and Global Hawk, regardless of the branch that is using the UAV. These UAVs are designed around Ku-band, and will continue to operate on Ku-band until the equipment is changed, which can be expensive.
By instead collaborating with the commercial industry to alleviate the cost burden, the Air Force will be able to allocate those precious resources to other programs. We applaud the Air Force for taking the bull by the horns, and for proactively looking for new approaches that could have significant upside.
What are the other branches of the military, intelligence, and security apparatus missing? They face the same budgetary, contractual, and operational challenges, yet continue to pay top dollar for commercial capabilities because they are still buying the old-fashioned way – by the drink and on the spot market. Can they take a page from the Air Force playbook before they embark on the next pathfinder?