USS San Antonio


Navy's 4G LTE network signals new era in ship-to-ship communications

In an effort to increase bandwidth and expand secure intra-fleet communications on the high seas, the Navy set up a two-ship sea trial to augment existing satellite-based communications. The resulting Long-Term Evolution (LTE) network let personnel on the two ships receive real-time video streaming from air nodes mounted on helicopters, which in turn allows officers to make quicker and more accurate decisions based on what advance units are doing.

The USS Kearsarge and the USS San Antonio were equipped with a microwave-based wireless wide-area network (WWAN) and its own cell network providing a tactical area of 4G LTE communications. With the mobile air network provided by the helicopters, the Navy was able to expand the tactical area of coverage. Sailors and Marines equipped with Android-based smartphones have access to voice, text and video communications between ships and remote sensors aboard the helicopters up to 20 nautical miles away.

The LTE network allows the NAVY to leverage all of the advantages of smart phones and commercial broadband, said Larry Hollingsworth, NAVAIR’s national director for avionics R&D. Having the ability to get high-definition video from remote sensors at the front lines quite simply can save lives. “NAVAIR is trying to address a critical requirement for the VBSS [visit, board, search and seizure] mission, but in addition the sailors are already finding the network useful in their day-to-day work.”

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