OFFUTT AIR FORCE BASE, Neb. - United States Strategic Command added another critical capability to its global portfolio Tuesday as U.S. officials announced a long-term international partnership on global military satellite communications.
The 20-year agreement, which took effect last week, was signed by senior defense representatives from Canada, Denmark, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, New Zealand, and the United States.
The Wideband Global Satellite program provides high-capacity communications for authorized users including Army ground forces, Air Force airborne terminals, Navy ships at sea, Combatant Commands and Agencies.
According to STRATCOM officials, the signatory nations have immediate access to the constellation and are using it now.
"This new multilateral WGS partnership provides an example of how the U.S. plans to continue exploring opportunities to strengthen our existing cooperative relationships and to build new partnerships," Heidi Grant, Deputy Under Secretary of the Air Force for International Affairs, said at a press conference announcing the partnership Tuesday.
Members of USSTRATCOM will strategically manage the overall program from Omaha, Neb. , since space falls into one of the organization's mission areas according the Unified Command Plan.
The UCP is a key strategic document that establishes the missions, responsibilities and geographic areas of responsibility for commanders of combatant commands.
"STRATCOM's role in this partnership will be to provide executive-level oversight on behalf of the U.S. Department of Defense," Randy Eshelman, a manager for International Satellite Communication Partnerships at USSTRATCOM said.
According to the signed memorandum, funding commitments by the six partner nations will enable expansion of the WGS program with a ninth satellite and increases interoperability and partner access to the system.
There are four WGS satellites on orbit and five additional satellites are scheduled to launch from 2012 through 2018. Satellite 4 launched Thursday from Cape Canaveral, Fla.