The MQ-1C Gray Eagle Extended Range (GE-ER) Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) has been called the linchpin of the U.S. Army’s multi-domain operations. Gray Eagle is a multipurpose platform that provides access into diverse environments – over land and sea – with Beyond-Line-of-Sight (BLoS) capabilities that are critical for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR). Built by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc., (GA-ASI), the Gray Eagle can fly for hours, transmitting mission-critical data over satellite to operators located hundreds or even thousands of miles away.
As part of PEO Aviation’s Datalink Modernization Program, satellite communications (SATCOM) connectivity aboard Gray Eagle is enabled by the Hughes HM Airborne System. Hughes has supported GA-ASI with SATCOM equipment, integration and operations for their unmanned aerial vehicle programs for several years.
For the Army Gray Eagle program, Hughes is delivering a customized version of the HM400 modem. This innovative airborne technology incorporates flexible, software defined techniques and a ruggedized container for high altitude applications, meets low size, weight and power (SWAP) requirements, and supports government approved waveforms. To help GA-ASI meet its customers’ evolving needs, Hughes continuously advances the HM System capabilities with software upgrades and enhancements.
Recently, Hughes joined with GA-ASI to demonstrate the very latest HM System capabilities that support resilient communications using government approved waveforms. The successful demonstration aboard the Gray Eagle showcased the HM System’s ability to accommodate the Army’s approved waveform and switch between both Geostationary (GEO) and Non-Geostationary (NGSO) satellite beams and frequencies (Ku and Ka-band). This seamless, dynamic frequency and orbital diversity enables communication resiliency and redundancy, especially in contested environments – a key capability for our warfighters today.
Across the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD), network modernization is a priority, as it is in the commercial sector. Adding advanced features such as multi-transport, multi-constellation, multi-orbit, multi-frequency capabilities to existing platforms like the Gray Eagle helps ensure their lasting value in supporting multi-domain, information-focused operations.
“As the Gray Eagle continues to support Army operations, the platform needs resilient SATCOM technology to withstand attacks and transmit high-quality, high-throughput data intelligence in any domain,” said Rick Lober, VP and GM for Hughes Defense. “Employing software-defined technologies, the HM System is flexible and customizable, with an open architecture that interfaces with a variety of antenna technologies and satellite constellations to maintain information assurance, no matter where the Gray Eagle flies.”
The HM System employs frequency-agnostic, commercially based, open standards to enable affordable, resilient solutions not only for the Gray Eagle, but for a wide variety of manned and unmanned fixed and rotary wing platforms.
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