Tactical Communications

Army eyes small, light SATCOM terminals for Special Ops

The Army is looking for small but powerful man-packable satellite communications terminals to support U.S. Special Operations Command, according to Sources Sought solicitation.

The Army Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center’s (CERDEC) Space & Terrestrial Communications Directorate wants to identify new technologies and off-the-shelf products that could result in a low-profile broadband satcom man-pack.

CERDEC is specifically looking at reduced size, weight and power requirements for a lightweight antenna that can be assembled in less than 15 minutes. In the best case scenario, the man-pack would weigh less than 15 pounds and comprise one hard side case that is less than 45 linear inches. This includes a battery source that could provide up to six hours of battery power.

The Army also wants the man-pack terminals to be able to maintain performance at low look angles. Look angles are determined by the placement of the satellite in relation to the receiver and are dependent on the orbital slot of the satellite. Higher look angles tend to have greater reliability and an improved quality of communications due to more direct line of sight to overhead satellites.

As Special Forces groups move to places around the world, their position relative to orbiting satellites changes, sometimes resulting in lower look angles with communications satellites. These look angles, where a satellite is closer to the horizon, are more easily obstructed by trees, building and terrain and may suffer from more interference from environmental conditions such as heavy rain. 

To solve the problem, the Special Operations Command is looking for a man-pack to provide a data rate capacity that will be able to support Voice over IP, video teleconferencing and full-motion video at all operational look angles and elevations, according to the solicitation.

USSCOCOM in interested in mainly in commercial/military Ka band, as well as commercial Ku band and commercial/military X band. All USSOCOM terminals are required to have Wideband Global SATCOM certification and commercial licensing.

The final date to respond to the solicitation is Oct. 6, 2014.

The Army has been increasing its supply of man-pack radios throughout the year. In June, General Dynamics C4 systems and Rockwell Collins delivered the first of 1,500 AN/PRC-155 man-pack radios to the service. By November, the Army is expecting the final delivery of the radios, which will reach a total of 5,300. 

About the Author

Joey Cheng is an editorial fellow with Defense Systems.

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