Proliferation of UAVs will generate demand for Airborne SATCOM systems

Tactical information exchange is made possible by airborne SATCOM technologies which offer dependable and continuous broadband connectivity between UAS, helicopters, and aircraft and moving forces and HQ. The technologies allow bidirectional real-time communication for crucial intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR), high-definition video, command and control, flight data monitoring, voice, and text over both narrowband and wideband (up to 100Mbps) networks.  The airborne SATCOM systems utilize cutting-edge antenna terminals supported by integrated IMU, tracking receiver, BUC, and modem to automatically establish and maintain communication links with military satellites. The ruggedized devices, which can be mounted on a variety of manned and unmanned aircraft platforms, give decision-makers, commanders, and field units the ability to maximize C4I efficacy and situational awareness in real-time and under difficult combat circumstances. Airborne satellite communications (SATCOM) solutions for voice, data, and video transmission give UAS, helicopters, mission aircraft, and fighter jets cutting-edge capabilities and beyond-line-of-sight (BLOS) long-range connectivity, enabling dependable and secure high data rate broadband communication. The systems may now accommodate several users concurrently and come in a variety of sizes.

Users today need flexibility to take advantage of the ever changing technologies. Innovative technology should be designed with open architecture and interoperability built in so that its capabilities can be tailored to meet the needs of different user groups. Advanced modems that are Commercial-Off-The-Shelf (COTS) devices and can easily be installed into a number of manned or unmanned, fixed or rotary winged platforms as well as interface with a variety of commercial and government antenna systems are becoming more and more in demand. For all airborne BLoS systems, systems based on a special Software-Defined Modem (SDM) and utilizing the specialized Scrambled Multiple Access (SCMA) waveform provide extremely dependable mobile video, audio, and data capabilities. The architecture of the system is geared toward achieving particular Size, Weight, and Power (SWaP) or performance criteria defined by the customer.

Some of the characteristics of an Airborne SATCOM system includes, transferring information amongst military branches to network the battlefield. Narrowband and wideband BLOS are trustworthy and safe (up to 100Mbps) connection to helicopters, aircraft, and UAS. ISR, HD video, command and control, flight data monitoring, voice, and text bidirectional real time communication. Communication between warfighters on rotary wing aircraft is particularly difficult because SATCOM signals must pass through rotating blades.

Lasers are used in the technologies known as Free Space Optical and Hybrid RF/Optical Communications to transmit data between a satellite and an aircraft. Compared to Radio Frequency (RF) technologies, they have the advantages of substantially faster data rates and less frequency interference. The drawbacks include air attenuation and difficult beam guiding due to the significantly narrower beam than with RF technologies. The fact that optical technologies for A/G and A/A are still in their infancy is another drawback. It is considered to be among the least advanced communication technologies.


A relatively recent development, putting SATCOM terminals on UAVs offers manufacturers numerous chances to develop cutting-edge, ultra-compact SATCOM terminals. The remote aircraft can be flown by the operator from a base thousands of kilometers away thanks to SATCOM technology. Additionally, it will make it easier for missions with up to 20 megabits per second of bandwidth to communicate data in real time. Future drones will need to have this capability in order to retain connectivity with command centers and a variety of ground, sea, and air assets. The terminal will additionally function on both civilian and military communications bands (Ku and Ka bands). Waveforms will also be used to stop signal jamming. Military communications satellite bandwidth is becoming an essential component of the nation’s military infrastructure due to the increasing usage of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), such as the Predator and Global Hawk planes. The need for more bandwidth will grow with the deployment of even quicker and stealthier unmanned combat air vehicles (UCAVs), which will soon be able to launch from aircraft carriers and carry a wider variety of weaponry.


Hughes was hired by Boeing to create mission management, system control, networking, and ground hub capabilities for anti-jam SATCOM communications capabilities as part of the U.S. Air Force Protected Tactical Enterprise Service (PTES) programme. Through the Wideband Global SATCOM (WGS) constellation, commercial satellites, and eventually DoD-operated Secured Tactical Satellites running the Protected Tactical Waveform, this combined ground platform is intended to provide protected communications services (PTW). The software development process for the programme is agile, and it includes frequent client demonstrations in order to quickly incorporate particular input and requirements.


An Indian Air Force (IAF) proposal for the GSAT-7C satellite was approved by the DAC. The military now makes use of the 2018-launched GSAT-7A, popularly known as “Angry Bird.” Despite being a satellite exclusively for the IAF, the Army uses around 30% of its capability. The satellite links a number of platforms used by the IAF, including aircraft, helicopters, drones, airborne early warning and control systems, and radars. After the GSAT-7, which was launched in 2013 for the Navy, this was the second military-specific satellite for India.


The ASW/MARPAT aircraft of the PLANAF is the KQ-200, sometimes referred to as the Y-9Q or GX-6. There is no evidence that the KQ-200 is used by the PLAAF. 2015 saw the PLANAF get its first KQ-200. The KQ-200 HF antennae strung from the tail are longer than HF antennae on the KJ-500 and Y-9JB and are therefore capable of transmitting and receiving at lower frequencies. At least nineteen VHF/UHF blade antennae are located above and below the fuselage for voice communications or data links.  The principal AEW&C aircraft for the PLAAF and PLANAF is the KJ-500, also known as the Y-9W or GX-10. In 2015, the PLAAF got its first KJ-500. Air alert or warning is represented by the letters “KJ.” The KJ-500 is adorned with communications antennae to carry out its airborne control task. On top of the radar is a dome-shaped SATCOM antenna. Between the tail and the fuselage are two high-frequency (HF) antennas. The fuselage is equipped with up to 18 very high frequency (VHF) or ultra-high frequency (UHF) blade antennas. Both data links and numerous audio channels are probably supported by these antennae.

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