Scott Air Force Base News

CYSS: Leading back-to-basics with HF

Lt. Col. Eric Trias, Cyberspace Support Squadron commander, and Joseph Mukes, system manager, review high frequency functions within the CYSS tri-fold.
Lt. Col. Eric Trias, Cyberspace Support Squadron commander, and Joseph Mukes, system manager, review high frequency functions within the CYSS tri-fold.

Imagine driving to an unfamiliar destination without a GPS device. You would be forced back-to-basics with using a paper map or asking for directions. Now, imagine executing a military mission without satellite communications.

Alternate means would be required to share and transmit data across the globe. Fortunately, there’s a team at Scott AFB belonging to Air Force Space Command’s Cyberspace Support Squadron that can provide this alternative. Its Global Communications System team manages the High Frequency Global Communications System for the Department of Defense. This team of highly skilled professionals, including Joseph Mukes Jr., system manager, are the DoD’s experts for high frequency communications.

Her Majesty’s Navy could not have assisted in the search and rescue effort for Malaysia Airlines Flight MH-70 without your HF system.

David Bennett, a member of the United Kingdom’s Ministry of Defense

HFGCS is the DoD’s primary, high power, HF radio communications network. It provides secure and non-secure voice, video, email, and text capabilities in austere locations where terrain and geography make it difficult to deliver wired communications infrastructure.

It is also a mechanism the President and DoD leaders use to exercise command and control over conventional and nuclear forces around the world. This is key because, while SATCOM replaced HF radio as the primary means of exchanging information over vast distances, access to space capabilities is no longer considered uncontested.

Recent news indicates the US is in unfamiliar territory in addressing threats to its space-based assets.

For decades, we have launched state-of-the-art satellites that do everything from pinpointing our locations on earth to transmitting information across thousands of miles; however, we did not plan for the loss of these satellite systems, and are now almost exclusively dependent on them. Further, our adversaries are investing heavily into efforts to cripple our space-based capabilities with denial and anti-satellite technology.

To address the threat, the GCS Team facilitates numerous efforts to bring our global allies and DoD communities together to work contingency plans and countermeasures to maintain our nation’s security. Planning includes a renewed interest in HF, a 100 year-old technology that predates the Air Force. HF is being modernized as a viable option for beyond line-of-site communication.

HFGCS is the DoD’s primary, high power, HF radio communications network. It provides secure and non-secure voice, video, email, and text capabilities in austere locations where terrain and geography make it difficult to deliver wired communications infrastructure.

As commercial vendors will no longer support the 1970s technology that HF radios are based on, the goal is to provide a platform capable of transmitting large files, high-resolution images, and real-time video streams across the battlespace. The GCS Team is leading this effort by identifying current HF technologies suitable to maintain command and control in a degraded SATCOM environment.

The team compliments its ability to keep abreast of changing technologies, in sync with emerging warfighter requirements, through its role as the Secretariat for the DoD’s HF Working Group, which is sponsored by the Joint Staff Chief Information Officer. During the working group’s meeting early June, Mukes invited multiple industry leaders in Wideband HF technology to inform the more than 50 attendees on current and future capabilities.

While helping to plan the future, the GCS Team is actively involved in current use of HF through its partnership with the Defense Information Systems Agency.

This cooperation facilitates HF services to foreign allies and mission partners. It specifically supports maritime naval command and control through HF-based communications to ships protecting the coastlines of 29 NATO countries.

Mukes is the DoD’s primary representative for HF agreements with our allies. For them, the US’ HF network has bridged their communication limits and supplied a reliable mechanism for allied command and control needs. HF is a key capability allowing naval commanders to talk to large groups of ships while traversing the vast oceans, and to converse with ground radio stations around the globe.

“Her Majesty’s Navy could not have assisted in the search and rescue effort for Malaysia Airlines Flight MH-70 without your HF system,” said David Bennett, a member of the United Kingdom’s Ministry of Defense.

While helping to plan the future, the GCS Team is actively involved in current use of HF through its partnership with the Defense Information Systems Agency.

Real-world events like this demonstrates how HFGCS remains operationally relevant, providing critical voice and data services over the horizon to air, land, and sea assets of the US and its allies.

The HFGCS mission exemplifies CYSS’ tagline “a unique and diverse squadron supporting all things cyber” as it enables communications that can travel beyond the curvature of the earth.

The members of the Global Communications Systems Team are proud to lead the way in plotting HF’s future in sustaining global command and control, because sometimes, going back-to-basics is your only viable option!

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