John Ratigan iDirect Technologies

Industry Perspective

Next-gen man portables swap out size and weight, add performance

According to the old adage, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

This could be said for the original design of the man portable satellite router boards, which are widely used by our military and across the Defense Department today. The original boards still deliver secure connectivity and protection to warfighters, emergency responders and other government agencies. They are lightweight, weighing less than 2 pounds, and they support high data rates, increased mobility and meet Federal Information Processing Standard (FIPS) 140-2 Level 2 security encryption requirements.   

The current satellite boards, used by the military for much of the past five years, are designed to integrate into a man portable satellite system that includes an antenna, block upconverter (BUC), antenna control unit (ACU), low-noise block downconverter (LNB)  and power supply to support data, video and voice connectivity. The boards are ruggedized to meet military requirements and deliver always-on broadband capabilities in highly compact form factors.


So, what could be better? A smarter, more powerful and even lighter man portable board with increased capabilities, and new ground infrastructure enabling the technology to operate on any satellite in the world.

Man portable boards are decreasing in size, weight and power, or SWAP, bringing more mobility to the warfighter. The increasingly portable communications technology that can support Internet, voice, video and data satcom will be even easier to carry and deploy for anywhere and anytime communications.

Half the size of existing boards and comparable to the size of an iPad, these next-generation, energy-efficient satellite router boards build off existing transmit key line capabilities that already improve battery performance by up to 40 percent. The next-generation boards, in addition to transmit key line, are utilizing systems that include a processor on the FPGA architecture, further reducing the total power consumption requirements. This is where DOD is headed – satellite communications technologies that are smarter and able to support more agile missions, with the flexibility to deploy tailored topologies and configurations to support a host of applications, ranging from Voice over IP to file transfer.

The newest man portables will be small, lightweight and power-efficient, bringing innovation to portable communications technology, designed to support data, voice and video connectivity in highly mobile military applications. The remotes feature high-speed data transmission, increased bandwidth capacity and higher network availability, aiding the mobile warfighter in forward-deployed locations.

They will be easier to integrate into portable solutions.

Some additional features include:

  • Spread spectrum
  • Quality-of-service prioritization
  • Wideband Global Satellite certification
  • Time Division Multiple Access
  • Digital Video Broadcasting-Satellite Second-Generation/Adaptive Coding and Modulation
  • Transmission security
  • FIPS 140-2 Level 3 certification

The units also will be energy- and bandwidth-efficient. The software ensures the BUC is turned off when the unit is not transmitting in TDMA.

It also includes smart technology that allows for the units to operate in an adaptive format utilizing the highest speeds available with the maximum data rate for the current weather conditions.

Ultimately, the advances in the board, ease of use, size and improved speed will allow information to be read, shared and captured in a much quicker timeframe, which will improve warfighters’ situational awareness and even safety.

A new axiom might be needed: If it can be improved, fix it.

About the Author

John Ratigan is president of iDirect Government Technologies.

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