JNN systems get Wideband Global Satcom network upgrade

At least 800 of the trailer-based field Satellite Transportable Terminals used by the Army will get internal circuitry changes that enable them to connect to the WGS constellation of satellites.

The trailer-drawn satellite dishes the Army has used to push satellite communications deep into theater operations are poised now to undergo an upgrade to receive and send signals to the Wideband Global SATCOM system. 

DataPath, an Atlanta-based manufacturer of the dishes known as Satellite Transportable Terminals, received Jan. 6 an Army contract worth up to $225 million over 4 years if all options are exercised. At a minimum, DataPath will receive $100 million to upgrade at least 800 STTs to receive and transmit signals with the WGS constellation. 

The STTs were first deployed to the field in 2005 as part of the Joint Network Node, a hastily funded Army effort folded by Pentagon planners in mid- 2007 into the similar Warfighter Information Network-Tactical program of record. Generally, STTs were configured to operate on the commercial Ku band. 

Besides saving the government money by converting data traffic from transmission via commercial assets to in-house satellites, the conversion will increase bandwidth available to warfighters, said Nelson Santini, a DataPath vice president of sale and marketing. He declined to say by how much. DataPath already is under contract to reset and repair STTs, having won a four-year contract worth up to $270 million from the Army in 2007 to do such work. 

This newest contract award involves swapping out internal STT circuitry; a process that can be done if need be in the field within a few hours, Santini said. Older STTs require preparatory refurbishment before the frequency band shift can be accomplished, he added. Operational constraints also prevented Santini from saying how long it will take to convert 800 STTs from Ku to Ka band, Santini said. 

The first WGS satellite achieved orbit in late 2007; ultimately WGS, once known as the Wideband Gapfiller Satellite System, should consist of five satellites. Like other millennial-era military satellite programs, the exact capacity of the WGS systems was the subject of heated internal debate, the dispute ultimately ending with addition funding for prime contractor Boeing to build two “Block II” WGS orbiters in addition to the original three “Block I” birds ordered in 2001.

According to Boeing, each WGS orbiter will be able to route between 2.1 to 3.6 gigabits per second of data. 

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