The Challenge & Solution Series – Mobile-Sat Comms

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The Challenge & Solution Series – Mobile-Sat Comms

Alfred Gilbert
August 2nd, 2017


Effective communications are mission critical for military, security, and defence forces whilst on operation. Active units rely heavily on the assumption that they can be in regular contact with mission control and headquarters, as they look to successfully and appropriately react to differing mission variables. Robust military satellite communications services are essential to support information exchanges, and for ensuring that mobile forces (both land and air) are not constrained by the need to remain within terrestrial network ranges.


In line with this, satellite technologies have seen a huge rise in utilisation within military contexts and applications. Satellite networks can provide coverage in the world’s most remote areas, opening reliable, two-way, real-time communications between HQ command and deployed units. By utilising reliable L-band coverage, and techniques such as Dynamic Resource Allocation (DRA), modern satellite networks can manage capacities to ensure that communications do not go down during mission-critical or high congestion periods.


Fast connection to these networks can be achieved via compact terminals. These are lightweight, compact, and easily deployable. This supports the modern RAF’s need to be rapidly deployable by both land and air.




Case Study

Skynet 5A was the first in a series of three new-generation satellites to be put into operation by the British Military. Each of the satellites can be precisely controlled so that pinpoint voice, the internet, and broadcast communications, can be transmitted across the entire globe.


This functionality was recently utilised for the Royal Air Force’s Red Arrows tour of the Asia Pacific and the Middle East, where the squadron flew around 20 displays. During the tour, all assured voice and data communications were provided by the Skynet constellation, with the majority of communications relying specifically on Skynet 5A satellite. This allowed individual pilots to communicate in real-time with both squadron members and central control teams, keeping pilots connected with the constant source of information needed for successful flight demonstrations.


To achieve this, the RAF, along with its partners, had to successfully complete a 67,000 km move of the Skynet 5A satellite. This ensured that the satellite technologies were appropriately stationed to relay communications between the various actors on the tour’s communication network.



One of the greatest challenges the RAF faces moving forwards in relation to satellite communications, is the growing breadth of the RAF’s operations. At present, there are still large ‘dark-spots’ where the service cannot rely on satellite communications. As seen from the example above, there is currently a necessity to move individual satellites to cover differing operational zones around the world. This takes time and investment from the RAF, limiting the Service’s ability to react and deploy quickly to developing threats.


It is also a growing concern for the RAF that the rapid growth in sophistication of technologies throughout the entire Air Force, may make current operational systems in relation to satellites obsolete. The RAF needs to ensure that its satellite hardware has enough in-built capacity to keep it relevant and useful over the coming decades.


The RAF is therefore actively looking to expand and develop its satellite communications, by working with sector leading companies and their innovative technologies.


The Air Force needs to find cost-efficient and successful solutions to its current challenges if it is going to keep its place at the forefront of international defence and reconnaissance.


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“ Satellite networks can provide coverage in the world’s most remote areas, opening reliable, two-way, real-time communications between HQ command and deployed units ”

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