The US Marine Corps (USMC) is set to become the first of the US armed forces to widely deploy the Mobile User Objective Systems (MUOS), a reliable and convenient on-the-move communications system.
MUOS is a narrowband satellite communication (SATCOM) system that uses commercial cell phone technology to increase access to voice and data communication while on the battlefield. The USMC has already fielded thousands of MUOS-capable AN/PRC-117G radios over the last six years and will update the firmware within the radios to support the MUOS waveform. Three new antenna kits will be added to support multiple operational configurations, to include: a traditional directional antenna for better data performance at-the-halt; a dismounted on-the-move antenna which enables voice and data access when mobile; and a vehicular kit that modifies the AN/VRC-114 to accept MUOS
“MUOS provides several advantages over legacy SATCOM. […] The most obvious to the operating forces will be the increased accessibility. This will allow us to explore new operating concepts by pushing on-the-move voice and data connectivity to the squad level,” commented MUOS Project Officer in Command Element Systems at Marine Corps System Command, Capt. Shawn Avery.
MUOS, which consists of a space-based segment, a ground-based segment connected over fibre optic cables between continents, and a software-defined radio (SDR) terminal capable of running the MUOS waveform, is designed to support users who require mobility, higher data rates and improved operational availability. The updated technology in the system offers a more secure and reliable beyond line-of-sight communication capability.
The new satellites are more robust and have more individual carriers, which allows the signal to be focused on a smaller geographic footprint, Avery said. This improvement enables on-the-move access while improving overall reliability in vegetation, urban environments and other extreme conditions where legacy SATCOM was challenged.
Additional improvements include the ability to roam, similar to a cell phone. Marines can begin in the continental United States, and then deploy and have immediate access to another satellite on the ground providing unmatched operational flexibility.
Initial fielding for the MUOS is scheduled for the fourth quarter of 2018, with initial operational capability planned for the first quarter of 2019.