January Radio Roundup

US Army Blue Force Tracker
Inmarsat was recently awarded a contract to carry blue force tracking data for the US Army across its ELERA satellite communications network.

Armada’s monthly roundup of all the latest news in the military communications product, programme and operational domains.

BFT For All to See

Inmarsat has shared details with Armada on the company’s work supporting the US Army’s Blue Force Tracker (BFT). In early November the company’s Inmarsat Government division won a contract worth $410 million to carry BFT data across its ELERA Satellite Communications (SATCOM) network. Susan Miller, chief executive officer of Inmarsat Government, told Armada the company will carry this data across L-band channels. Specifically, these frequencies are 1.525 gigahertz/GHz to 1.559GHz for reception (Rx) and 1.6265GHz to 1.6605GHz for transmission (Tx). Extended L-band frequencies of 1.518GHz to 1.559GHz (Rx) plus 1.6265GHz and 1.6605GHz (Tx) and 1.668GHz to 1.675GHz (Tx) are also offered. This data will move from BFT systems equipping army assets like vehicles to satellite ground stations around the world. An army asset will thus be able to transmit its BFT information globally.

Ms. Miller continued that “Inmarsat’s ELERA network provides both government and commercial users across land, sea and air with L-band narrowband connectivity services through four geostationary satellites.” ELERA is also used for global Internet of Things (IOT) connectivity. IBM provides one of the most useful definitions of the IOT as “the concept of connecting any device … to the internet and to other connected devices.” The definition continues that “(t)he IOT is a giant network of connected things and people … all of which collect and share data about the way they are used and about the environment around them.” Another of ELERA’s useful attributes is that it provides near-global, sans extreme polar regions, coverage Ms. Miller adds. ELERA’s global network is “fully operational today.”

TACNET Support

On 12th December, SAIC was awarded a five-year contract worth $349.5 million by the US Navy’s Pacific Naval Information Warfare Centre. Reports say the company will perform in-service engineering to sustain the operational effectiveness and peak capacity of the US Navy’s Tactical Networks (TACNET). TACNET is the umbrella term for several such networks used by the navy. These include the Automated Digital Network System (ADNS), the Consolidated Afloat Networks Enterprise Service (CANES), the Combined Enterprise Regional Information Exchange (CENTRIX-M), Integrated Shipboard Networking System (ISNS) and Sensitive Compartmented Information Networks (SCI Networks). ADNS carries the US Department of Defence’s Global Information Grid (GIG). The GIG in turn is a global network transmitting and processing information for DOD users wherever they may be. CANES is the navy’s next-generation tactical afloat network consolidating and enhancing five shipboard legacy naval tactical networks. These include the ISNS and SCI Networks. CENTRIX-M is a secure US and allied information sharing system. It uses internet protocol standards to provide web services like email, chat and messaging.

The company told Armada via a written statement this latest contract covers “the sustainment of fielded systems through to end-of-life replacement, system upgrades, follow-on or interrelated systems, distance support, on-site repair, installations and systems analysis to ensure networks are performing within designed specifications.” The statement continued that “SAIC also provides the engineering review of documents in support of production and installation of programme-of-record systems.” SAIC says it expects to complete this contract by December 2027 if all options are exercised.

SAIC was awarded a contract in December 2022 to provide support for the US Navy’s TACNET tactical networks. TACNET encompasses a diverse array of networks used for afloat tactical communications.

StreamCasters for Marines

On 12th December Silvus Technologies announced it had won a $5 million contract to provide the company’s StreamCaster 4400 mobile ad-hoc networking multiband radios to the United States Marine Corps. According to reports announcing the news these radios will provide mobile tactical communications for USMC vehicles. These include the corps’ Oshkosh Joint Light Tactical Vehicle variants. The radios will also equip the corps’ Iveco/BAE Systems Amphibious Combat Vehicle. The radios form a key part of the USMC’s Networking on the Move (NOTM) system. NOTM provides mobile and stationary terrestrial and satellite communications using survivable, self-forming networks according to official documents.

Deployed from 2013, plans are afoot to furnish the USMC’s Advanced Reconnaissance Vehicle with NOTM apparatus. An air variant of NOTM has also been developed to be deployed with Marine aviation assets. Chris Nigon, senior director of navy, marine and air force programmes at Silvus Technologies, told Armada that the Marine Corps’ StreamCaster 4400s will carry the company’s proprietary MN-MIMO waveform “with spectrum dominance features to enable operations in congested and contested environments.” Alongside the USMC, the StreamCaster 4400 is furnishing the US Army as the AN/PRC-169. It equips the force’s Integrated Tactical Network.

NOTM Tactical Communications
The US Marine Corps’ NOTM ensemble uses Silvus Technologies’ StreamCaster 4400 radios to provide mobile and stationary communications. NOTM is also equipping Marine Corps’ air assets.

by Dr. Thomas Withington