By Scott Prater
A carrier strike group sits in the middle of the Pacific Ocean poised to conduct anti-piracy operations. Beamed into their operations center is a crucial video feed from a Global Hawk Remote Piloted Aircraft in the region. That crucial piece of video is likely being provided by the Global Broadcast Service, which is managed by the 50th Space Communications Squadron here.
The unit began the Global Broadcast Service operational trial period using the newly developed Defense Enterprise Computing Center architecture Oct. 25.
During the trial period, 50 SCS personnel will interact with GBS’s military and civilian users worldwide. Together, they’ll run live, real-world operations with a select group of users across various combatant commands in order to stress and evaluate the hardware, software and procedures that make up the new GBS operating architecture as well as the personnel involved.
“Think of it as a test drive, like you would test drive a car,” said 1st Lt. Tobias Pedretti, 50 SCS Plans and Resources flight commander. “Our intent is to load the system as much as possible, serving as many operational users on this new architecture as we can, and then evaluate our confidence in employing GBS DECC worldwide.”
So, what is GBS?
It’s a communication broadcast service developed to meet the ever-growing warfighter demand for large-volume data throughput capabilities. The service disseminates large data and video products as well as source-encrypted video streams through certain satellite constellations.
For example, RPAs typically fly around pivotal areas taking photos and video. They send video data to GBS satellite broadcast managers who then disseminate it to warfighters on the ground or to nearby ships, so they can see what the RPA sees, thereby improving their situational awareness.
“GBS also supports ships and submarines underway, in-garrison training units, and organizations such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Department of Homeland Security” Pedretti said. “It provides data files, news, weather and distance learning to a multitude of customers.”
Since February 2009, 50 SCS has been operating and maintaining GBS. Although the current legacy GBS architecture is managed by 50 SCS, no operational control center actually resides on Schriever AFB. However, with the transition to the new GBS DECC architecture, 50 SCS gains a GBS operations center here, which serves as a user helpdesk and also to remotely manage the satellite broadcast manager located within the Defense Information Systems Agency’s DECC infrastructure in Oklahoma City, Okla.
Until recently, GBS operations have been spread out among service broadcast managers in Hawaii and Virginia. However, the new system architecture will consolidate and migrate operations to the global information grid. The GBS DECC also enforces information assurance controls and provides a continuity of operations site.
During the trial period and beyond, 50 SCS team members will manage the GBS operations center 24 hours a day, seven days a week, providing broadcast management and customer support services to military and civilian users around the world.
Pedretti explained the operational trial period is the last phase in the acquisition process before operational acceptance.
Currently, the GBS Joint Program Office at Hanscom AFB, Mass., is responsible for the GBS DECC program. Following a successful operational trial period, 50 SCS, along with backing from 50 SW and Air Force Space Command operations, will reach operational acceptance and formally accept GBS DECC operations.
“Just getting to operational trial period has been years in the making and an amazing effort by all parties involved –multiple services, major commands and organizations from the operational side of the house to the acquisitions side,” said Lt. Col. Lynn Plunket, 50 SCS commander. “I look forward to bringing on this new GBS architecture to provide an enhanced and more reliable capability to the warfighter.”