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DSEI 2019: Spectra ventures into the Troposphere

12th September 2019 - 08:07 GMT | by Andrew White in London

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Spectra Group has agreed to partner with US company Comtech to provide a Troposcatter communications capability for end users demanding high capability and resilient connectivity in contested environments.

At DSEI 2019, the company exhibited a Concept Demonstrator of a 1m Small Form Factor Troposcatter (SFFT) solution, based on Comtech’s larger legacy 2.4m Modular Transportable Transmission System (MTTS). 

Speaking to Shephard, Shaun Barry, business development executive at Spectra Group described how the solution is ready to manufacture before disclosing how the company has already been in discussions with the UK MoD’s Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL) over the past 12 months to explore potential for a reduced size solution.

As a result, Spectra Group and Comtech has designed the SFFT, comprising an antenna and modem, which can be carried in a pair of rucksacks, measuring a total of 25kg. Although unable to support communications on the move, the SFFT has been designed to support on-the-pause communications with capability to be set up in less than 20 minutes.

According to Barry, the SFTT would provide end users with an alternate communications solution, particularly when operating in congested environments where satellite communications services can be disrupted or even denied. Typically, Troposcatter communications solutions are capable of supporting data rates up to 500MBPS at ranges out to 100km.

‘Troposcatter communications are harder to direction find and jam but it is not the golden bullet,’ Barry explained to Shephard before describing how austere weather conditions could restrict connectivity.

The UK MoD remains in the process of evaluating the SFFT and its associated concepts of operation. MoD requirements are being driven by the Royal Navy, although the Joint Forces Command has also expressed an interest in the capability, Barry added. 

Meanwhile, Spectra Group confirmed its Slingshot Radio Over Satellite solution, which allows VHF and UHF radios to support satellite communications, had been certified for service with the US Army and Marine Corps following its participation in the Army Expeditionary Warfighting Experiment (AEWE). 

Weighing 605g, Slingshot comprises an antenna solution which can be carried in a backpack or on board a tactical ground vehicle to support on-the-move satellite communications. 

According to the AEWE Technology Annex, published on 30 July, Slingshot ‘performed as intended, enabling the reconnaissance section to maintain communications when terrestrial networks were not available. The system proved easy to use, allowing Soldiers to rapidly connect and communicate without interfering with operations’.

Following successful evaluation as part of the AEWE, Spectra Group is now able respond to the tactical communications requirements of both the US Army and Marine Corps as it seeks to extend sales beyond the support of special operations forces. 

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