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Northrop Amplifier Advances Army Satellite Communications Program

By | July 24, 2006

      Northrop Grumman Corp. [NOC] advanced an Army satellite communications program, the company announced.

      Northrop delivered an advanced and compact power amplifier for the Army capable of enabling transformation of battlefield communications for its network-centric Future Force.

      Army Future Force concepts include bringing integrated voice, video and data from joint forces to troops on the ground.

      This vision requires high data rate, wideband satellite communications (SATCOM) operating at extremely high frequencies.

      As well, it requires low-cost SATCOM terminals and an efficient, scalable system that is compact and maximizes available power for the transmit distances needed by warfighters, according to the company.

      Northrop developed an extra-high-frequency, solid-state power amplifier (EHF SSPA) capable of attaining high power output in a small form factor. The company also demonstrated that the design was scalable to higher power levels crucial for Army on-the-move systems.

      In developing the power amplifier, the company said it used low-loss combiner techniques coupled with advanced low-cost module technology to provide the best blend of high- output power, high efficiency and low recurring cost.

      “We were looking for innovative technologies in this effort for reducing amplifier size and weight and improving affordability for SATCOM on-the-move systems,” said John Nilsen of the Army Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Command.

      While not perhaps providing a final solution, “The successes we had brought us closer to realizing high data rate, integrated voice, video and data at the Humvee and Future Combat Systems (FCS) vehicle level,” he said.

      FCS is a massive program costing hundreds of billions of dollars, led by The Boeing Co. [BA] and Science Applications International Corp. [SAIC.PC], with the two companies acting as lead systems integrators that hand out contracts for the actual hardware–vehicles, aircraft, communications systems and more–to other companies. At this point, FCS vies with the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program led by Lockheed Martin Corp. [LMT] for the distinction of being the most expensive defense contract in history.

      Highly Mobile Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles (HMMWVs), known as Humvees, and FCS vehicles are important mobile and agile elements of the Army Future Force. Small, affordable, multiband SATCOM on-the-move capabilities are essential for enabling full network-centric connectivity on these platforms where available size, weight, power and cost are extremely limited.

      Northrop Grumman’s EHF SSPA was developed under the Army Communications-Electronics Research Development and Engineering Command to meet specific program manager, warfighter information network–tactical (PM WIN-T), high-capacity communications capability (HC3) objectives, according to Northrop.

      The Army PM WIN-T office is leading the HC3 effort to ensure the efficient network-centric operations of future information nodes and terminals.

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