Army extends broadband to helicopters

HONOLULU -- The Army has started deploying innovative broadband satellite communications technology on its command and control helicopters as part of its push to enable its force with IP communications, the Army’s chief information officer said here at the annual AFCEA TechNet Asia-Pacific conference.

Lt. Gen. Steven Boutelle, the Army’s chief information officer, said ViaSat had developed an airborne satellite IP communications package that can pull a signal down through a helicopter’s rotors. The first ViaSat gear is slated to be installed on Black Hawk command and control helicopters in the 82nd Airborne Division as part of the Army’s “everything-over-IP strategy,” he said.

The Army has also started to deploy 38 palletized versions of its Joint Network Node in Iraq that will bring IP networking capability based on commercial gear, such as Cisco Systems routers, down to the infantry company level. Eventually, Boutelle said, the Army would like to extend IP communications -- which serve as the basic transport mechanism for voice, data and video -- to individual soldiers.

The Army has invested heavily in its backbone to carry all this IP traffic, Boutelle said. It has spent $4.4 billion on broadband extensions from the Global Information Grid to bases and camps and beefed up satellite teleports that will provide the Army with the bandwidth it needs anywhere in the world, he added.


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