> but was a technology already well known to military
Were any of those (or any since) designed to work in an environment where all of the nodes weren't ultimately under one command and control authority? As in, sure you can airdrop a load of self organizing sensors or repeaters IF they are all equipped with common keys. But what if the op force gets their mitts on one for a few days? Detecting a node sending bogus (hacked or just malfunctioning) route information doesn't sound easy even in a controlled situation like an airdropped network, doing it in a 'download this .deb and install it on your plug computer' setting is a nightmare.
Making a network of semi-reliable links work isn't that hard, see FTN networks from the pre-Internet BBS world for just one example. Making them work in a real time Internet like environment is a little harder. Making them work without any central authority (even IANA can become a central Internet chokepoint in any situation longer than a few weeks) at all hasn't been done yet. Then add the design requirement that it stand up to rogue nodes, spam gangs, criminal organizations trying to hijack the network and/or individual nodes for identity theft, credit card harvest, etc. and finally the dedicated physical and R&D might of nation state actors is asking a bit much of a rag tag band of hackers. A way needs to be found to level the field a bit. We probably need a nation state or other similar empowered actor involved in the design, they have the resources.
> these can be switched off (not so easily if - say - you use several
> satellite uplinks).
I can't believe anyone clueful enough to have written the rest of the post added that. Sat links are the easy chokepoint if one of the very few nation states that operate the birds become involved. For example, just how many ground control stations are responsible for every sat with a footprint covering Egypt? In the case of the US I'd bet ~100% of Internet or video capable birds with a footprint on the US are ground controlled from CONUS.
Yes it would work in the current case of Egypt since one could probably find a bird willing to sell you airtime as all of the other Middle Eastern despot regimes haven't circled their wagons and there are probably a couple operated from Europe, Israel, India or the US with footprints covering some or all of Egypt. But depending on them is only a false sense of security since if the poo were ever truly in the fan, the exact sort of situation this sort of planning is intended for, it will fail.