New satellite will enhance Canadian Armed Forces’ communications capabilities

News Article / March 20, 2017

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National Defence / Canadian Armed Forces

Representatives from the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) and Department of National Defence (DND) were on hand at Cape Canaveral, Florida, on March 18, 2017, to witness the launch of the ninth Wideband Global Satellite Communication (WGS-9) constellation satellite.

A United States Delta IV rocket was used to launch the WGS-9 at 8:18 p.m.from the United States Air Force Space and Missiles System Center in Cape Canaveral. The satellite will aid in meeting CAF strategic satellite communications (Satcom) requirements for many years into the future.

“Military operations are increasingly dependent on capabilities based in space,” said Brigadier-General Blaise Frawley, the director general space at the Royal Canadian Air Force. “The WGS-9 will further enhance a reliable Satcom network and ensure our forces can communicate effectively to enable success on operations.”

Canada contributed $340 million to the development of the WGS-9 program, which represents the largest financial contribution of the five project partner nations. Canada’s participation was made under the Department of National Defence’s Mercury Global Project, which leverages the capabilities of eight other WGS satellites already in orbit.

Canada gained access to the WGS constellation in May 2013 and has used this capability to support the communications needs of several missions around the world.

“Canada’s contribution to this effort provides essential communications support for Canadian Armed Forces operations around the world,” noted Defence Minister  Harjit S. Sajjan. “Investing in innovative solutions like the Mercury Global Project will keep the Canadian Armed Forces on the leading edge of defence capabilities, while further enhancing relationships with our international partners and allies.”

Mercury Global Project will ultimately access its full allotted bandwidth from the WGS constellation through anchor stations in Shirleys Bay, Ottawa, Ontario; Great Village, Nova Scotia; and Canadian Forces Base Esquimalt, British Columbia — all of which are home to the antennas and associated ground infrastructure.

The ability to exchange large amounts of information between headquarters and deployed forces has become critical to modern military operations. This has been demonstrated in support of NATO missions such Operation Reassurance in Europe and coalition operations such as Operation Impact in the Middle East. The Mercury Global Project is an effective way of meeting the CAF’s communication requirements for domestic and expeditionary operations.

In total, Canada has allocated $452 million to the Mercury Global Project. This includes the contribution to the ninth satellite acquisition, WGS constellation support, large-scale antennas at three sites in Canada, and strategic deployable terminals. Sharing costs with international partners and allies is a more cost-effective option than building and maintaining a uniquely Canadian satellite system.

Besides the United States, which owns and launched the satellite, other international partners involved with the WGS-9 include Denmark, Luxembourg, New Zealand and The Netherlands.

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