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Land Warfare

Aggregated SATCOM accelerates in the US

11th June 2021 - 11:40 GMT | by Andrew White in London

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The Transport Aggregation Gateway provides a unified gateway enabling multiple transmission paths across satellite, cellular and line-of-sight communication networks. (Photo: L3Harris)

In 2022, US Army Brigade Combat Teams should be equipped with a new tool for seamless and resilient communications in contested environments.

In the age of Great Power Competition, armed forces require secure and resilient communication pathways to ensure maximum levels in connectivity even when operating in the most contested of environments.

Seeking to satisfy these demand signals, industry is offering various aggregated communications solutions capable of integrating a variety of networks, ranging from SATCOM and Mobile Ad Hoc Network (MANET) communications to 4G and 5G networks.

Examples include the Transport Aggregation Gateway (TAG) solution, which L3Harris Technologies designed to ensure critical communications in denied and degraded C2 environments.

Speaking to Shephard, L3Harris product director Shane Sims explained how TAG relies upon Smart Blending Technology to identify the most seamless connectivity pathway for tactical communications across a contested and multi-domain battlespace.

Comprising the TAG Gateway Remote Terminal and TAG Concentrator, the holistic solution aggregates voice and data traffic across multiple networks while considering any possible disturbance in service due to geographic constraints or enemy EW interference.

‘There's no requirement to reconfigure anything,’ Sims explained before describing how legacy communications radios can be integrated into the system. ‘TAG gathers together all of the advantage of all available bandwidth or throughput across disparate networks, no matter which vendors are supplying them.’

He added: ‘By utilising all available communications links simultaneously, TAG automatically optimises capacity by providing network resiliency and elasticity as communications systems join or leave the network.’

‘TAG gathers together all of the advantage of all available bandwidth or throughput across disparate networks'Shane Sims, product director L3Harris

TAG was first demonstrated to the US Army in 2018. Since then, the solution has been ruggedised for military operations and proven its ability to ensure communications even at data rates as low as 256kbps. It has also been integrated on various platforms, including demonstrations on Polaris Government and Defense MRZR Light Tactical All Terrain Vehicles.

TAG is expected to support US DoD exercises over the remainder of 2021, including NetMod X and Project Convergence. L3Harris aims to equip US Army Brigade Combat Teams with the capability in 2022.

Similar capability is being offered to armed forces by Viasat through its Assured, Resilient and Integrated Network (ARIN).

This comprises a ‘highly secure, self-forming and self-healing communications network’ designed to support operations in degraded battlefield environments, a company spokesperson confirmed to Shephard.

Featuring a series of software-defined networking routers, decision engines and network management systems, ARIN also includes machine learning algorithms and data analysis tools that assist in identifying the optimal pathway for communications across a contested battlespace.

According to Viasat, the ARIN can accommodate any commercial and military communications network, including SATCOM, Link 16, MANET, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, 4G LTE and 5G. In terms of SATCOM, this includes low, medium and geostationary earth orbit satellite constellations, officials confirmed.

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