In a 2 July request for information, the US Army is seeking to expand beyond line-of-sight (BLOS) communications for tactical operators, using a new commercial satellite service. According to the US Army Technology Applications Office, the service simply wants to solicit industry views and be able to assess options. Observers close to the service’s procurement process, however, speculate that, in fact, the Army is firmly focused on a vision that involves small satellite terminals – perhaps no larger than an iPad Pro – enabling troops to communicate with constellations in low or medium earth orbits (LEO/MEO).
The use of LEO/MEO satellites require less powerful (and therefore smaller) terminals and the Army is apparently looking for a new commercial satellite provider to supply terminals no larger than 12 in square – and common across dismounted, vehicular and airborne applications, though it notes there is capacity for airborne terminals to be larger if necessary. Additionally, the service seeks uninterrupted global coverage (except in the polar regions) and an ability for the terminals to switch between satellites as they move from one coverage footprint to another.
A fundamental issue that Army acquisition professionals confront is the requirement for replacing legacy terminals as new satellite architectures are implemented to replace the combination of military and commercial satellites currently in use to provide BLOS communications. New terminals will be required since the legacy equipment will not be compatible with new-generation satellites. While there is no official indication as to how many terminals might eventually be involved, the volume is likely to be significant: so, too, is the likely response to the Army’s quest for information!