Meeting NATO's satcom needs is no simple task

Allied nations partner on satellite constellation to serve troops around the world

Providing communications for the many groups that form NATO requires multiple satellites to deliver sufficient bandwidth to any geographical location. Those communications links are regularly altered to meet new demands, and the contracts among the various entities also are constantly changing.

One of the key elements is NATO Satcom Post 2000 (NSP2K), a constellation of satellites created by a one-year memorandum of understanding signed by NATO and three nations in 2002. The U.K. Ministry of Defence is part of a consortium with the French and Italian defense ministries. Collectively, they provide NATO with super-high frequency and ultra-high-frequency satellite communications via three constellations: the United Kingdom’s Skynet, France’s Syracuse and Italy’s Sicral.

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Commercial satellites plug bandwidth gap for military satcom

Paradigm Secure Communications handles the U.K. segment with three military-hardened Skynet 5 military communications satellites. They provide UHF bandwidth for tactical communications and SHF bandwidth for ground stations. Several other options augment those links, including terrestrial and orbiting offerings from Cable & Wireless, Iridium, Intelsat and Inmarsat.

The contracts also shift as needs change. “Paradigm has direct contracts with a number of NATO member nations for national operations outside of NSP2K in X, C, and Ku bands,” said Keith Norton, Paradigm’s CEO.

Contracts were altered in 2008 so Paradigm could provide SHF capacity to support NATO’s International Assistance Security Force operations in Afghanistan. “This arrangement has been subsequently extended and is expected to remain in place until mid-2011, after which it will be the subject of an international competitive bid,” Norton said.

About the Author

Terry Costlow is a contributing writer for Defense Systems.

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