Empowering the Warfighter Part 2: The value of knowing the customer

Familiarity with our customers’ needs allows Viasat to deliver the best technology today, not tomorrow

soldier on phone
Today's mobile phones often offer more advanced technology than some of the communications equipment soldiers have in the field. Viasat it trying to change that with a faster way of turning needs into reality.

In the world of defense, acquisition policy has become bogged down with a myriad of bureaucratic processes — what we used to call “red tape.” Such bureaucracy tends to fragment operational capabilities into programmatic and technology silos that deliver the interdependent components of operational capabilities in an unsynchronized manner, resulting in lengthy delays from a warfighter perspective. The frequent result is that it takes far too many years to deliver a much-needed operational capability — eventually solving yesterday’s problem instead of today’s, and creating critical capability gaps that put our warfighters at an unfortunate disadvantage.

Evidence of this is the fact that the typical Department of Defense (DoD) development program takes many years to reach Initial and then Full Operational Capability (IOC/FOC) – even if everything is done right! These long timelines and the lack of synchronization among mutually dependent capabilities are genuinely alarming. Meanwhile, private sector commercial technology trajectories are advancing at unprecedented rates. The stark contrast between DoD development timelines and commercial timelines means the warfighter is left at a technology disadvantage. The defense acquisition process is simply not keeping up and, as a result, the warfighter suffers.

Overcoming the capability gap on the frontline

Today’s national security threats are largely being enabled by some of these same rapid technology advancements, which are transforming threat envelopes and accelerating threat vectors at an increasingly alarming pace. Leaders within the DoD recognize that we must meet this challenge by exploiting these same commercial technology trajectories to quicken the DoD innovation cycle. Taking advantage of commercial technologies and private-sector investment will enable the DoD to maintain technology superiority by deploying advanced operational capabilities across the battlespace.

At Viasat, we agree with our senior leaders and are rallying to meet this challenge. We collaborate with DoD and allied partners around the globe, leveraging proven agile development techniques to bring the latest technology solutions to the warfighter in remarkably efficient ways. That means focusing on building greater intimacy with our customer, the end-users of battlespace technology, such that we deeply understand their most challenging problems to be solved.

By thoroughly understanding our customers’ most urgent needs, we can proactively apply cutting-edge technologies to create innovative solutions that provide warfighters with new and truly remarkable operational capabilities. We then continuously evolve these capabilities over time to ensure the warfighter is never left behind on today’s technology-driven battlespace.

Case study: A better radio

A great example of this is our work on the AN/PRC-161 Handheld Link 16 radio. In just 17 months, we took the concept for this radio from the back of a napkin to successful operational assessment of a revolutionary operational capability. Today, the AN/PRC-161 radio is being used in the field to drastically improve close air support — significantly improving situational awareness, reducing the chance of friendly-fire incidents, accelerating targeting timelines, and improving mission effectiveness.

This is only one example of Viasat’s ability to rapidly transform innovative ideas and cutting-edge technologies into warfighter solutions in months rather than years. While we have done this rapid development in the tactical data links market segment with our AN/PRC-161 Handheld Link 16 radio, as well as our KOR-24A Small Tactical Terminal (STT), we have also done this in the satellite communications market segment with our Global Mobile Antenna (GMA) 5560-101 KuKarray multi-mode, multi-band antenna and our AN/TSC-241 Multi-Mission Satcom Terminal (MMT). We’ve also used this same agile development in the cybersecurity and information assurance market segment with the creation of the world’s first 100 GB encryption products.

At Viasat, our passion is developing technologies that address our customers’ most difficult problems and rapidly creating new and innovative operational capabilities that address their quickly evolving mission needs. Our position as an industry leader is based on groundbreaking technology developed by passionate teams of engineers empowered to push beyond traditional limits to find a better way. That includes anti-jam, high-capacity satellite communications; tactical mobile networking and Link 16 data links; information assurance and cybersecurity solutions; ground/air situational awareness; and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance services.

It is incumbent upon all of us to give America’s warfighters the best tools and technology available to keep them safe. That means providing them with ubiquitous, assured broadband connectivity and cloud-based battlespace situational awareness to help provide access to cognitive decision aids and artificial intelligence. It also means enabling them to employ machine learning to carry out new missions, even in the most difficult of environments.

Today, our team is working with customers to deliver these new lifesaving capabilities such as A.I., machine learning and assured, secure cloud connectivity to today’s warfighter, and we’re looking forward to pushing the boundaries to enable future connectivity solutions for what’s next.

 

 

Ken Peterman
About Ken Peterman 2 Articles
Ken Peterman is president of Government Systems at Viasat.