Information Warfare: Turning JSTARS Into a Space Satellite


August 26, 2006: The U.S. Air Force has developed the ICAN (Interim Capability for Airborne Networking) system, to provide encrypted chat and email via its E8-C Joint JSTARS radar aircraft. ICAN serves several purposes. First, it provides the JSTARS aircraft with an Internet connection. This means a JSTARS overhead can plug into the encrypted Department of Defense internet network (SIPRI). This JSTARS connection can also provide Internet connections for troops on the ground who do not have such a connection (via satellite or land line.) In effect, a JSTARS with ICAN becomes a substitute for a satellite connection. The ICAN capability can be installed in other air force aircraft that normally stay over a combat zone for extended periods ( like the KC-135 tankers and AWACS). The air force is pitching ICAN as a way to make up for the shortage of satellite connections, especially when the traffic is very heavy. This increasingly occurs when there are a lot of UAVs in the area, all sending video via satellite links.
ICAN for JSTARS will be particularly useful because the JSTARS radar tracks vehicles on the ground, and this often involves discussions with friendly ground troops and warplanes. Chat rooms are perfect for handling group communications during complex operations.


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