Satellite broadband is Stryker MVP

A satellite communications system, which Army officials cobbled together from commercial components before the Army’s Stryker Brigade Combat Team departed for Iraq last fall, emerged as the brigade’s most valuable broadband tactical Internet asset, according to an Army study.

After an exercise last summer at Fort Irwin, Calif., Stryker leaders identified what the report from the Center for Army Lessons Learned (CALL) described as a data gap between the power of the brigade’s automated systems and the limited digital transmission systems fielded to battalions within the brigade.

The low data rate of the brigade’s Near Term Digital Radio technology caused this bottleneck, according to the report, because it “was incapable of transmitting the volume of digital traffic at an acceptable speed and with reliability to the battalions."

Members of the Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division worked last summer with officials at the Army Battle Command Lab in Fort Gordon, Ga., and the Program Executive Office for Command, Control and Communications Tactical to develop a satellite-based, high-speed network system for the brigade, the CALL study stated.

Within 90 days, the three organizations developed and fielded a broadband communications system, the Initial Ku Satellite System (IKSS) which has an aggregate throughput of 7 megabits/sec, according to the CALL report.

IKSS hardware, integrated by Data Path, consists of 11 satellite terminals with 1.5-meter dishes operating via a commercial satellite link and two master reference terminals equipped with 2.4-meter dishes that control the satellite terminals.

Each of the satellite terminals has a Cisco Systems Model 3725 router, Cisco Model 1760 router to provide virtual private network communications and a KG-175 TACLANE bulk encryption device from General Dynamics to support Internet-based data communications. Users could set up the gear in roughly 45 minutes, the CALL study stated.

Besides providing broadband data from brigade to battalions, the IKSS also supported voice-over-IP traffic, with each of the satellite terminals supporting four voice-over-IP phones. Despite a rapid procurement and deployment, that commercially based package "significantly improved the speed and reliability" of communications for the Stryker team, CALL analysts found.

Though IKSS is not a standard Army system, the CALL report concluded that it "has been the biggest [command and control] force multiplier [for the brigade] and has demonstrated a capability that must be included for all follow-on [Stryker brigades] as signal transformation infrastructures."

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