Fish with Chips

BlackFish (Horizon Technologies)
The small size and light weight of Horizon Technologies’ BlackFish makes it ideal for light aircraft and helicopters, alongside uninhabited aircraft.

In early August, Horizon Technologies launched its BlackFish Signals Intelligence system.

The company is known for its FlyingFish Signals Intelligence (SIGINT) products. Like FlyingFish, BlackFish detects and locates satellite phones. Specifically, transmissions from the Inmarsat, Iridium and Thuraya networks. All three use frequencies of 1.525 gigahertz/GHz to 1.646GHz.

Weighing eight kilograms (18 pounds) BlackFish outfits light fixed- and rotary-wing platforms, along with uninhabited aircraft. BlackFish is also free of components covered by the US government’s International Traffic in Arms Regulations.

Horizon Technologies’ chief executive officer John Beckner told Armada that BlackFish is in production. He says that BlackFish is “really two generations ahead of FlyingFish and can do so much more.” For example, signals from the Inmarsat, Iridium and Thuraya networks can be monitored and intercepted simultaneously. Mr. Beckner adds that BlackFish can be networked with several receivers, acting as the clearing house for the incoming SIGINT. He cites the example of a fixed BlackFish installation with five or six antennas spread around a city. This could cover all these Satellite Communications (SATCOM) bands being used in this area.

Catching Criminals

BlackFish cannot decrypt traffic says Mr. Beckner: “This is the domain of government end users under their own legal intercept legislation.” Nonetheless, locating and monitoring SATCOM traffic is an important capability. For example, people smugglers routinely use SATCOM when trafficking refugees from North Africa to southern Europe. Detecting and locating these transmissions helps navies, law enforcement and coastguards locate the boats and rescue people potentially in grave danger. Likewise, SIGINT gathered by BlackFish could be useful in later criminal proceedings against suspected people smugglers.

Search and Rescue

Beyond these SATCOM networks, BlackFish monitors GMDSS (Global Maritime Distress and Safety System) transmissions. GMDSS uses various frequencies between 300 kilohertz and 300 megahertz. GMDSS is also carried by the Inmarsat network. Using BlackFish to monitor the GMDSS aids a rapid response to distress calls and helps search and rescue efforts by locating the source of transmissions.

by Dr. Thomas Withington