Airborne ISR in the Lift

Friday 24 May 2013
Airborne ISR in the Lift


Koen Willems, Market Director, Government & Defense and IP Trunking

With the 2014 deadline looming and a large but not total withdrawal of personnel from Afghanistan likely, there will be an even greater military need for satellite bandwidth outstripping even the high demands we are seeing today.

Using Technology in the Face of Danger

Taking troops out from the front line and investing more in communication technology may seem counterintuitive. But with the reduced on-the-ground presence, the need for satellite support systems and increased bandwidth will mean a surge in Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) activities requiring satellite connectivity.

Growing bitrates, more airborne Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) missions and a greater number of increasingly sophisticated and bandwidth hungry data collection apparatus will be used to gather the essential information required. There will also be more intelligence stations based in Afghanistan.

The Importance of ISR

ISR is becoming the most important method for gathering information in military missions around the world. Operations need more intelligence to ensure accuracy and successful correct decision-making. It enables missions to become shorter and more focussed with less of a role for ground forces.

The recent Libya missions are a prime example of this. With little or no ground force intelligence available to verify airborne ISR observations and often a great need for precision information, there is an ever-increasing reliance on the accuracy and detail of ISR data gathered by both manned and unmanned aircraft. ISR missions are being dispatched to collect and process information, they need to be achieved using the same levels of expensive satellite bandwidth, once available for far fewer missions.

New Technologies Are Vital for Change

Different video technologies in high definition and bandwidth hungry sensor technologies (such as hyper-spectral imagers, infrared, light detection sensors) will demand ever more capacity on the satellite transponder. A technology called the Gorgon Stare uses 12 cameras, which simultaneously record video to capture motion imagery of a wide area, perhaps even an entire city, to then be relayed back for analysis at base. There are multiple other examples that are expensive in bandwidth, but priceless when it comes to the detail they provide. And this kind of technology will become even more important once the majority of troops on the ground are withdrawn.

The network configuration in ISR networks is also atypical compared to normal satellite links. There is the need for a higher volume of data to be transferred from the airborne vehicle back to control than vice versa. This is directly opposite to what one would expect from the set-up of a typical VSAT network. It is a phenomenon we call ISR data backhaul and is very similar to what you would expect to find in the network for a satellite news-gathering service.

Already in action is the Newtec IP Satellite Hub with high-speed IP modems including FlexACM® and Cross-Layer-Optimization® technology, which have proven to increase the usable data rate by 30-50 % on average, by converting the extra link margin. The system is currently operational, supporting multiple aircraft. During testing and operation, the system has been successfully operated on multiple satellites including Skynet 5A, 5C, 4E, XTAR-EUR and XTAR-LANT.

To find out how we bring extra value to ISR applications, check out our special MANNED AIRCRAFTS, ISR, BORDER PATROL, UAV page.