Radio ‘dead spots’ are a real and present danger for military forces in remote or mountainous areas, preventing communications with command centres and other units. Satellite solutions offer an answer.
With its jagged terrain, Afghanistan has proven an extremely challenging environment for allied forces deployed in the region. One of the key difficulties is the effect of the topography on communication systems, with the mountains simply blocking out the signals of conventional HF or V/UHF radio systems.
To solve the problem, the French Ministry of Defence issued an Urgent Operational Requirement (UOR) in 2009, mandating Thales to develop a communication solution that would stay connected and operate reliably over long distances at all times — and to deliver it as soon as possible.
The solution was to build a satellite link into armoured vehicles deployed in the theatre to relay communications, and it was an ideal opportunity for Thales to operationalise the Satcom On-The-Move research programme launched in 2004.
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“One of the biggest challenges with armoured vehicles moving over rough terrain was how to keep the transmitter terminal stable and fixed on the satellite,” says Nathalie Digonnet, head of Thales’s military satellite systems department.
Successfully tested by French units deployed in Afghanistan and later in Mali, the Venus solution has come to play a crucial role on operational missions today. Building on this experience, Thales is now providing the armed forces with a new generation of Satcom OTM terminals for Griffon vehicles under the French Army’s Scorpion programme.
These new terminals are even more powerful, with a range of several thousand miles, so soldiers on overseas deployments can stay connected directly to strategic headquarters in the home country. The terminals can also operate as communication network nodes, so a single Griffon unit can act as a hub for allied units in the vicinity, enabling them to aggregate their communications through the same satcom unit.
These solutions developed by Thales will also meet the connectivity requirements of France’s Syracuse IV military satcom system when it enters service in 2022. They will help ensure better protection for soldiers in the field and higher data rates thanks to the use of multiband terminals. The new terminals are also easier to integrate and maintain on the vehicle platform.