BRUSSELS— Julian E. Barnes reports: The North Atlantic Treaty Organization is preparing to expand its satellite communications capability with contracts worth about $1.85 billion later this year as it prepares to field a new fleet of drones.
The alliance’s demand for satellite bandwidth has increased as its operational tempo has stepped up in recent years with the deployment of forces to its eastern flank and the development of a new system of surveillance drones.
The NATO Communications and Information Agency, which operates and defends the alliance’s computer networks and the missile defense command and control system, is slated to announce more than $3 billion in upcoming projects for defense contractors to bid on at a conference in Ottawa, Canada at the end of April.
The alliance is dedicating the biggest chunk of that money to expanding satellite-communication bandwidth for deployed forces and its headquarters.
NATO is acquiring five Global Hawk surveillance drones to be based at Signonella, Italy as part of the Alliance Ground Surveillance system. The first drone is due to be deployed to Europe later this year and will begin operations later this year or 2018.
A senior NATO official said those drones will create a huge demand for satellite data…. (read more)