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LAND FORCES 2021 SPECIAL REPORT

Communications enters digital age via space tech

LAND FORCES SPECIAL

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LAND FORCES 2021 SPECIAL REPORT

Communications enters digital age via space tech

Boeing MST comminications equipment being tested at Monegeetta Base, Victoria.
Boeing MST comminications equipment being tested at Monegeetta Base, Victoria.

By KATHERINE ZIESING

June 1, 2021

The army is modernising its radio/satellite communications (SATCOMs) system under LAND 2072 Phase 2B Project Currawong with Boeing Defence Australia (BDA).

Building on the proud lineage of Australian wildlife, Currawong is part of the radio evolution from Wagtail, Raven, Pintail and Parakeet that sees battlefield communications enter a truly digital era.

The system allows the ADF to communicate and fight on the move with the latest connections to space technologies.

Part of this effort is the Medium SATCOM Terminal, or MST, is a trailer-based earth terminal comprising a 2.5m satellite dish. It is rapidly deployable and is the only secure SATCOM system of its size with dual band certification for the military’s Wideband Global SATCOM X and Ka Bands, in addition to the civilian Ku Band.

The MSTs provide pioneering combat communication capability to deployed warfighters and have achieved Acceptance by Defence.

“The MST is versatile, flexible and robust and takes communications in the field to the next level,” BDA’s Project Currawong director, Ian Vett said.

“Its ability to go anywhere a Hawkei vehicle can go and seamlessly connect to both military and civilian satellites far exceeds any SATCOM capability currently available to the warfighter.

“When combined with the other components of the Currawong battle space communications system, our deployed troops are better equipped than ever to securely exchange voice, data and video communications with each other and back to headquarters regardless of their location and environmental conditions.”

A step change in the evolution of combat communication systems, the MST taps into the Currawong system’s enhanced multi-security bearer and networking services, control and management capabilities.

Brigadier Warren Gould, the Director General Systems and Integration within army headquarters said: “Army welcomes the introduction of such a rapidly deployable SATCOM capability”.

The MST is an Australian capability which was developed and tested through an expansive chain of Australian and US suppliers and required extensive collaboration between BDA and the customer.

“The end product needed to be able to be towed by the lightweight Hawkei Protected Mobility Vehicle while incorporating all the functionality and ruggedised durability needed to operate in even the harshest of off-road environments,” said Vett. “Existing off-the-shelf equipment was not certified to the operational standards required for modern military missions, so the five-year development and production program for MST has required complex engineering design and integration works, extensive production and testing.

“This involved upwards of 100 modifications to the original design and the inclusion of 198 subsystems and modules to the MST; by comparison the high capability line-of-sight radio developed for Project Currawong has around 44,” Vett explained.

A total of 24 MST units will be deployed to Army Combat Signal Regiments across Australia along with the Defence Force School of Signals and Royal Australian Air Force.

The second of three releases of Boeing Defence Australia’s Project Currawong battle space communications system was completed in April with the commonwealth signing off on the System Acceptance Audit for Release 2. Release 3 is scheduled for later this year with Final Acceptance of the whole system due at the end of 2022.

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