Satellite broadband is Stryker MVP

System developed and fielded in 90 days

By Bob Brewin

A satellite communications system quickly cobbled together from commercial components shortly before the Army's Stryker Brigade Combat Team (SBCT) departed for Iraq last fall emerged as the 'most valuable' broadband tactical Internet asset used by the brigade in Iraq, an Army Center for Lesson Learned (CALL) study said.

After an exercise last summer at Ft. Irwin Calif, leadership of the SBCT identified what the CALL report described as a 'data gap' between the power of the brigade's automated systems and the limited digital transmission systems fielded to battalions within brigade.

This data bottleneck, the report said, was due to the low data rate of Near Term Digital Radio systems fielded to the SBCT ''which was incapable of transmitting the volume of digital traffic at an acceptable speed and with reliability to the battalions.'

Staff of the SBCT, the 3rd Brigade of the 2nd Infantry Division headquartered at Ft. Lewis, Wash., worked last summer with the Army Battle Command Lab, Ft. Gordon, Ga, and the Program Executive Office-Command, Control and Computers, Tactical to develop a satellite based, high speed network system for the brigade before it deployed to Iraq, the CALL study said.

Within 90 days, the CALL report said, the three organizations developed and fielded a broadband communications system known as the Initial Ku Band Satellite System (IKSS) which has an aggregate throughput of seven mpbs.

IKSS hardware, integrated by Data Path Inc., consisted of eleven satellite terminals with 1.5 meter dishes operating over a commercial satellite link and two master reference terminals equipped with 2.4 meter dishes which that controlled the satellite terminals.

Each of the satellite terminals was equipped with a Cisco Systems Inc model 3725 router, Cisco model 1760 router to provide Virtual Private Network (VPN) communications and a KG-175 TACLANE bulk encryption device from General Dynamics Corp., to support both secret and non-classified Internet based data communications. Set up time for this gear was roughly 45 minutes, the CALL study said.

Besides providing broadband data from brigade to battalions, the IKSS also supported Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) traffic, with each of the satellite terminals supporting four VoIP phones. Despite the rapid procurement and deployment of the IKSS, the CALL study said this commercially based package 'significantly improved the speed and reliability' of communications for the SBCT.

Though IKSS is not a standard Army system, the CALL report concluded that 'IKSS has been the biggest C2 [command and control] force multiplier [for the brigade] and has demonstrated a capability that must be included for all follow-on SBCTs as signal transformation infrastructures.'

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