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Northrop Grumman transfers SATCOM tech to aircraft comms system

27th December 2013 - 08:56 GMT | by The Shephard News Team


Northrop Grumman has successfully demonstrated a new SATCOM-derived aircraft communications system on-board its Firebird demonstrator aircraft, the company has revealed.

The new high-functioning, low-cost communications system’ provided full motion video to the ground during the testing, while for demo purposes the system and associated test equipment were housed within a pylon-mounted structure attached to the top of the Firebird fuselage, the company announced on 12 December.

Northrop Grumman developed the SATCOM system using Gallium Nitride (GaN) technology, which first gained attention as the source of brightly coloured LED lights, it said. GaN allows for high communications output while using very little physical space.

Until now, no small communications system has been able to send sensor data to a satellite and back to a ground station at such a high rate of transfer, according to the company.

‘It's a game changer for those that need high-quality, real-time data, but don't want to – or can't – have a large, heavy communications system on-board,’ Brett Amidon, director of technology development at Northrop Grumman's Aerospace Systems, said in a statement.

‘Our system provides beyond line of sight capabilities in a compact, lightweight, low-profile package.’

The system's small size saves space on-board an aircraft, thus allowing for more sensor payloads and equipment to be carried on it.

Meanwhile Northrop Grumman executives stressed the importance of expanding C4ISR capabilities for the US military services and its allies during a media briefing on 11 December, claiming that focusing on how open architecture and integration enable platforms, cyber, sensors and logistics to work at maximum effectiveness will help in future operations.

These technologies enable warfighters to assess the environment, control assets and communicate effectively in pursuit of mission objectives. To retain this asymmetrical advantage, industry must provide tools that are affordable, enable open integration, and are easily upgradable to meet rapidly evolving threats,’ a statement from the company explained.

‘In a truly open integration, any sensor is a discoverable node – space, air, surface or undersea. Information from these sensors can be networked and utilised in flexible, ever-changing ways to keep ahead of our adversaries and meet mission objectives,’ Gloria A. Flach, president, Northrop Grumman Electronic Systems, told the briefing.

‘Through open integration and open architecture, we are enabling best of breed innovation to bring to light solutions that are affordable and effective.’

She added that in order for the US and its allies to prepare for all contingencies, it needs a ‘new C4ISR value proposition’ that harnesses open integration.

'In today's security environment, turmoil exists in many regions, stemming from a variety of causes,’ the statement continued. ‘C4ISR remains critical as the means of keeping abreast of developments and preparing and executing strategies to deal with events as needed.’

The Shephard News Team


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