October 16, 2013
LARGO, Fla. (Oct. 9, 2013) -- The Army's advanced protected ground satellite terminals are supporting Air Force testing of new military satellites, and once operational in real world missions, these advanced terminals will provide a fourfold increase in throughput to bandwidth-hungry forces.
"One of the biggest and most important requirements in operations today is bandwidth," said Lt. Col. Leonard Newman, product manager for Satellite Communications, or SATCOM, assigned to the Army'sProject Manager Warfighter Information Network-Tactical, known as PM WIN-T. "It's a limited resource that must be prioritized to ensure the most important information is getting through, and anytime we can increase bandwidth, we add to the capability, support and safety of our force in a powerful way."
The Army's protected ground terminals, referred to as Secure, Mobile, Anti-Jam, Reliable, Tactical-Terminals, or SMART-Ts for short, make it possible for Soldiers to extend the range of their network and protect their communications from jamming, detection and interception. To date, the Advanced Extremely High Frequency, or AEHF, version of the SMART-T is the only mobile ground platform fielded throughout the joint forces. AEHF SMART-Ts enable U.S. forces to access the Department of Defense's new AEHF satellites, which possess a tenfold increase in capacity over their legacy Milstar satellites.
The Army first began production of the legacy Extremely High Frequency, or EHF, SMART-T in 1999, while delivery of the upgraded AEHF SMART-Ts began in 2010. Since then PdM SATCOM has fielded hundreds of SMART-Ts to the Army, Air Force, Marines, and special users, as well as to Canada and the Netherlands. After 14 years of production, the final SMART-T rolled off the production line in mid-September, at the Raytheon production facility in Largo, Fla. Although new production has concluded, the Army will continue to manage and sustain existing SMART-Ts to ensure systems maintain their full operational capability.
AEHF upgrades will continue for legacy EHF SMART-Ts and are currently scheduled to be completed by fourth quarter of fiscal year 2015. Not only does the AEHF upgrade quadruple bandwidth availability for Army forces, it also provides greater overall satellite access, maximizing a unit's communication capability and increasing data availability.
While deployed in Afghanistan, Marine Cpl. Caroline Anthony, a satellite communications operator for I Marine Expeditionary Force, supported smaller forward operating bases where she helped operate and maintain SMART-Ts.
"They're really reliable -- once they are up, they tend to stay up and they provide a very stable connection to the Army's classified Secure Internet Protocol Router network," Anthony said. "SMART-Ts are also very mobile. You just pack them up and take them to the field, wherever the mission may be. They're an all around good system."
With SMART-T, Soldiers, Marines and Airmen can send text, data, voice and video communications beyond their area of operations without worrying that the information will fall into the hands of enemy forces.
"We are a heavy [armored] unit, and the AEHF SMART-Ts provide a wider spectrum, a wider variety for operators and more positions to push out," said Spc. Timothy Nagle, information systems specialist for the 422nd Expeditionary Signal Battalion.
Since the terminals enable Soldiers to extend communications in harsh environments without the risk of enemy interception or detection, they increase Soldier safety as critical information is shared across the battlefield. The terminals are also specifically designed to survive and operate after a nuclear, chemical or biological attack.
"SMART-T is a great system; its mobile, flexible, and you can set it up quickly [in 20 minutes by two Soldiers]," said Spc. Corey Metzker, 422nd Expeditionary Signal Battalion, who was training on the AEHF SMART-T at the Largo facility. "It adds versatility and it's just really efficient at what it does."
Designed as part of the WIN-T architecture, SMART-T is compatible with both WIN-T Increments 1 and 2, and their corresponding equipment. WIN-T is the Army's tactical communications network backbone and provides high-speed, high-capacity voice, data and video communications throughout the operational environment. PM WIN-T is assigned to the Army's Program Executive Office Command, Control and Communications-Tactical.
Currently, deployed legacy EHF SMART-Ts can only utilize legacy DOD Milstar satellites, but once upgraded with AEHF capability, the terminals will also be able to tap into the three new, more capable AEHF satellites. The three AEHF satellites were launched in 2010, 2012, and most recently, AEHF 3 was launched in September 2013. AEHF SMART-Ts are also backward compatible with the legacy Milstar satellites, so they will be able to utilize both the Milstar and AEHF satellites.
The Air Force is responsible for developing and maintaining military satellites, while the Army develops, procures and fields ground terminals to the objective force. Currently, AEHF SMART-T capability is fully operational with the AEHF satellites in orbit, but only in a testing and training environment. Since the AEHF satellites have not finished testing, the Army can only employ SMART-T's EHF capability for current missions in theater. However, the AEHF Satellite Multiservice Operational Test and Evaluation, or MOT&E, is scheduled for calendar year 2014. Following a successful MOT&E, AEHF SMART-Ts will be fully operational for use in real-world missions for both EHF and AEHF capability.
"AEHF SMART-T production and fielding outpaced AEHF satellite payload availability," Newman said. "But as the pioneer of AEHF protected satellite terminals, AEHF SMART-T is postured for success and we are proud to be able to support joint forces in AEHF testing to get these capabilities to the field."