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Strengthening SATCOM


As the world dives deeper into the age of strategic competition, reliance upon more traditional communications solutions is being threatened by highly capable peer adversaries.

Satellite Communications (SATCOM), for example, have provided the connectivity backbone for allied counter-insurgency campaigns over the past two decades. But, Russia's invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022, illustrated an emerging threat disrupting Ukrainian Armed Forces' tactical SATCOM.

The realization that armed forces need to better protect SATCOM connectivity has been around for a while, according to Jerry Adams, L3Harris Technologies general manager of SATCOM programs.

The biggest fear is to have your communications jammed, Adams said, noting the ongoing conflict in Ukraine has illustrated the urgency of bringing more secure technology into the broader SATCOM terminal fleets. At the tactical level, small-unit teams can benefit from a variety of solutions to better protect SATCOM, even in contested environments.

The combined capabilities of protected Very Small Aperture Terminals (VSATs), secure modems and resilient waveforms allow warfighters to communicate via satellites while minimizing electronic signatures and interference by near-peer adversaries.

This need aligns with the U.S. Space Force's Vision for Enterprise Satellite Communications, which provides the foundation for a hybrid space architecture for the future.

Initial force designs have focused on the large-scale topology of the space-to-space and ground-to-space information transport framework to avoid previous traps of building dedicated, nonintegrated networks to service specific users, Space Force's Space Warfighting Analysis Center spokesperson Maj. Sarah Babcock told Breaking Defense in July. Subsequent force designs are focusing on the particular elements of this integrated architecture, to include narrowband and broadband users.

As such, L3Harris is integrating its VSAT, modem and waveform technologies into a unified solution designed to deliver protected SATCOM services at the tactical edge.

Bringing advanced L3Harris modems to our terminals provides customers with robust and resilient communications needed for mission success, Adams said.

EXPEDITIONARY TERMINALS L3Harris has delivered more than 10,000 deployable VSATs to the U.S. Department of Defense and its international partners over the last decade, typically with commercial and unprotected modems.

This stems from their operational needs over the past 20 years, where there hasn't been a focus on near-peer type conflicts, meaning units have been able to broadly and successfully use commercial modem platforms, Adams said. But the times are changing, and the U.S. Army, Marines and Five Eyes' partners are looking at the scenarios in the near future that necessitate a broader protected modem capability to prevent jamming and introduce orbital diversity to take advantage of cutting-edge, low-latency, high-throughput services.
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