One of the greatest threats to a military on the battlefield is having its communication cut or compromised.
Not being able to send or receive SITREPs or instructions can have devastating effects. These comms failures can either be unintentional, such as technical faults or human error, or deliberate. As technology has developed so too have ways of sabotaging it and one of the most common forms of sabotage is that of radio jamming. Jamming devices are easy to build, widely available and can be deadly effective.
New Zealand is not immune to attacks on its global satellite systems but thanks to a joint project with the US, the NZDF will soon have access to one of the most sophisticated protection systems there is. It will protect communications in the field and ultimately save lives.
Trials are being held to incorporate the Protected Tactical Waveform (PTW) system into the communications capability that Wideband Global SATCOM (WGS) constellation provides. Currently the WGS has no such protection. The PTW is a highly sophisticated waveform or frequency which is based around the same systems used by US forces. It will be introduced as part of a wider Protected Anti-Jam Tactical SATCOM capability and will eventually be incorporated into commercial and future MILSATCOM Protected Tactical Satellite (PTS) systems.
Defence Technology Agency (DTA) Research Leader Dr Branislav Jovic has been co-ordinating the trials with help from the US. “Ensuring our forces are safe against jamming attacks, unintentional and intentional, in a theatre of operations, is at the very core of our work,” he says. “An investment in PTW today will continue to provide benefits beyond WGS.”
After carrying out the necessary literary studies on whether the PTW modems could be integrated into the Cubic-GATR WGS terminals (see image 1), scientists from the US Space and Missiles Systems Centre (SMC) and DTA conducted the first experiment. The results were encouraging with the PTW merging with relative ease.
“This is an important step in ensuring our communications are adequately protected against interference in an increasingly contested and congested radio frequency environment,” said Dr Jovic. “Furthermore, the integration of PTW modems across all our defence partners will not only help protect our communications in friendly and non-friendly environments, it will also ensure all our partners can work together collaboratively and effectively.”
The experiment, which would otherwise have cost several hundred thousand dollars, came at no cost to NZDF due to its collaborative nature.
The timeframe for integrating PTW into service is set for between 2024-2030.
Republished with permission from Army News, Issue 523, Pg 22, June 2021