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U.S. Space Force Seeks More Secure Satcom

June 26, 2020
The U.S. Space Force has contracted Raytheon Intelligence & Space for anti-jam PATS satcom modems for the Army and Air Force.

Satellite communications (satcom) systems provide voice, data, and video links with extensive global reach, but there is often concern about maintaining secure communications in the presence of an adversary’s jamming signals. For example, the U.S. Space Force maintains a constellation of advanced extremely high frequency (AEHF) satellites that have established excellent records for secure, jam-resistant strategic communications when needed. But the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) has acknowledged the need for a tactical alternative and has invested in the protected anti-jam tactical satellite communications (PATS) system as a practical anti-jam alternative to AEHF satcom systems.

As a defense against jamming of satcom systems, the U.S. Space Force recently awarded Raytheon Intelligence & Space a $500 million indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity (IDIQ) contract with a $37 million first delivery order to develop anti-jam satellite modems for the Air Force and Army. This follows an earlier contract with Northrop Grumman for a Protected Tactical satcom payload. Both the payload and the modem are designed to operate with the Protected Tactical waveform, used on both military and commercial satcom systems for security against jamming.

PATS employs commercial cryptographic algorithms for security in highly contested, potentially dangerous space environments. In many of these environments, adversaries are monitoring the use of signal encryption and decryption and trying to break the codes (see the figure). PATS provides protection but without sacrificing performance, moving data at high bandwidths. This allows the transmission if high-definition (HD) video in real time for tactical teleconferencing when needed. “We built upon some of the strengths of AEHF, but the real difference is that PATS provides more bandwidth, more resources, and allows for more users,” said John DeNorscia, product area technical director at Raytheon Intelligence & Space, one of the four businesses that form Raytheon Technologies (         

About the Author

Jack Browne | Technical Contributor

Jack Browne, Technical Contributor, has worked in technical publishing for over 30 years. He managed the content and production of three technical journals while at the American Institute of Physics, including Medical Physics and the Journal of Vacuum Science & Technology. He has been a Publisher and Editor for Penton Media, started the firm’s Wireless Symposium & Exhibition trade show in 1993, and currently serves as Technical Contributor for that company's Microwaves & RF magazine. Browne, who holds a BS in Mathematics from City College of New York and BA degrees in English and Philosophy from Fordham University, is a member of the IEEE.

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