Currently, most of the United States' air traffic control system is ground based, although that is changing and once all the aircraft have the proper equipment in them, the plan can implement to run all on satellite communications. Yes, soon the NextGen ATC system will arrive, and there are tons of advantages to having an all satellite based system, but there are also some draw backs too. Okay so, let's discuss this for a moment shall we?
Last month, I was having a dialogue on the topic of the Federal Aviation Administration's NextGen system and the computer hardware which will be involved with a fellow think tanker type and computer hardware expert, and we got to talking about the vulnerabilities of an EMP attack, or massive solar flare on the ATC satellite system and Troy Laclaire asks; "if the system were to rely on satellites, what happens afterwards?"
Indeed, I said, I hear you. And thus, the satellites and airline instruments which correspond to them should be battle hardened electronics right? Yes, but as it stands the US military cannot give away those secret manufacturing processes which allow them to battle hardened their electronics. Because if they give that away to foreign airlines, and to China and the like, then the US military will not be able to disarm, or fried electronic systems and enemy aircraft which gives us the advantage.
Therefore, the very best electronics which could withstand a severe solar storm, won't be available to all commercial aviation. In fact, I just read a case where the FBI caught someone from the Philippines who was trying to sell these types of electronics to China, and they got them under the espionage spy act.
Troy made another point about the fried electronics in space operating our ATC system; "The whole industry shuts down until you can get more satellites in orbit?" Yes, big time problem isn't it, but that's not the only industry. How about every gas station the country that uses the satellites to do the payments when you buy gas with your credit card, or all the grocery stores that take credit cards, or all the Wal-Marts that wire information from every transaction? The thought of us losing all of our satellites is scary.
Look, I don't wish to be a party pooper, but we need to be thinking ahead here, and this is serious business when it comes to our need for 100% uptime with our ATC computer hardware equipment. Indeed, I hope you will please consider all this.