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5 Hughes Innovations Transforming Military SATCOM Networks and Capabilities

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To celebrate 50 years of Hughes innovation and leadership this year, we have been posting a “5 for 50” series that shares personal insights from Hughes executives on all things related to technology and trends. Here are 5 Hughes innovations and defense contracts that, according to Hughes Defense vice president and general manager, Rick Lober, have transformed military SATCOM networks and improved warfighter communications capabilities.

  1. Flexible, Software-enabled Terminals and Systems – Hughes was the first to innovate advanced software-based technology that makes it possible for terminals to autonomously select and interoperate between different SATCOM terminals, systems and services. This capability delivers highly secure, flexible and resilient communications. The Hughes software-defined Terminal Management Agent (TMA) ensures uninterrupted connectivity by helping a satellite terminal to ‘self-heal’ or redirect a terminal to a new satellite, waveform or service when interference or jamming degrades or disrupts a transmission.
  2. Uninterrupted Multi-Transport Connectivity – To provide resiliency and uninterrupted connectivity to troops around the globe, military networks must adapt to user needs and mission requirements in real-time. To that end, Hughes has pioneered multi-transport capabilities—the ability to switch between geostationary, medium and low earth orbit satellites (MEO/LEO), wireless and 5G to meet user needs. For example, using GEO satellites for bandwidth intensive applications and satellite backhaul, and MEO and LEO service to support lower latency applications and achieve complete global coverage, including in the Arctic. Multi-transport capabilities are essential for warfighters and communications on-the-move, as demonstrated recently by Hughes in collaboration with SES.
  3. Comms for Remotely Piloted Aircraft – For a contract with General Atomics, Hughes customized the advanced, ruggedized HM400 modem to connect the U.S. Army’s Gray Eagle Unmanned Aircraft Vehicles and Systems (UAV/UAS) with next generation satellite communications. Integrated with the DoD’s waveform technology, these modems are ideal for supporting military operations in contested environments. Hughes has since expanded its airborne solutions for unmanned systems to include implementations on the MQ-9B SkyGuardian, a variant of GA-ASI’s Predator® B Remotely Piloted Aircraft. That’s one way Hughes engineers to military specification, with ruggedized solutions and optimized size, weight and power (SWaP).
  4. Rotary Wing Communications Capabilities – Rotary wing aircraft present a unique challenge for warfighter communications because SATCOM signals must transmit through spinning blades. Hughes breakthrough Beyond-Line-of-Sight (BLOS) SATCOM capability for helicopters enables real-time transmission of high definition ISR and situational awareness data, demonstrated aboard a Black Hawk helicopter at speeds of 17 Mbps. Telespazio recently selected the Hughes HeloSat™ solution for SATCOM for Leonardo helicopters.
  5. Anti-jam SATCOM Capability for the U.S. Air Force – As part of the U.S. Air Force Protected Tactical Enterprise Service (PTES) program, Hughes was contracted by Boeing to develop mission management, system control, networking and ground hub capabilities for anti-jam SATCOM communications capabilities. This joint ground platform is designed to deliver protected communications services through the Wideband Global SATCOM (WGS) constellation, commercial satellites and in the future, DoD’s Protected Tactical Satellites running the Protected Tactical Waveform (PTW). The program uses an agile software development process that includes regular demonstrations with the customer to incorporate specific feedback and requirements and deliver capabilities quickly.

These five examples showcase how the Hughes heritage of innovation over five decades continues to inspire new ways of delivering information to the military. After all, in the modern battlespace, knowledge is decisive. For the warfighter, knowing what’s happening now tips the balance of what happens next; and threats to communication are threats to mission success. That’s why we engineer, automate and manage resilient networks for information accessibility anywhere the mission leads, from the home front to the front line.