Japan’s Earthquake Revealed Key Satellite Gaps

April 12, 2011 at 3:28 pm | Posted in Aerospace Law Interfaces | Leave a comment

by Sara M. Langston with the blog faculty

Source: New Pacific Institute

By Peter J. Brown

When Japan’s earthquake struck, Japan’s wired and wireless communications were quickly knocked out as the telecommunications infrastructure in the impacted zone collapsed. While much has been said about the importance of wireless social networking in such dire circumstances, the reality is that Japan’s emergency communications grid soon proved to be inadequate.

Elements of the U.S. military also found themselves cut off and scrambling to restore their communications links – doing so at a time when the U.S. Department of Defense is spending billions of dollars on new, high-bandwidth satellite links in the Asia – Pacific region and elsewhere.

In late March, for example, AFCEA’s Signal magazine reported that USMC units in Japan had to rely upon conventional telephones in order to sustain communications between USMC units in Japan and to maintain contact with units in South Korea.

This was not just a 24 – hour outage, but an extremely adverse situation lasting 72 hours.

The Japanese government as well as the space – friendly DPJ in particular, on the other hand, must constantly seek to improve Japan’s overall approach to disaster response and recovery.

Of course, readers must not misunderstand what is being said here. Japan has always planned and drilled extensively for just this type of earthquake. And Japan gets very high marks as a result.

Japan clearly recognizes the importance of satellite imagery in post – disaster recovery operations, for example. Japan Security Watch has discussed the role of satellite imagery earlier.

Japan also uses satellites to broadcast alerts and warnings instantly via the “J-Alert” project which was launched in 2007 with mixed results.

However, how and when Japan used satellites communications to provide redundancy and rapidly improve the flow of information in and out of remote communities and shelters after this disaster struck is open to question. [Full story]



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