Army buying portable satcom gear that fits in soldiers’ backpacks
WASHINGTON — The Army is increasing orders of a transportable tactical command and communications system, known as T2C2. These are high-bandwidth satellite terminals that give soldiers in the field quick access to the Army’s tactical network.
These kits are a departure from traditional Army communications systems that are large, bulky and require a lot of setup time. With T2C2, “you can have comms in 30 minutes,” Col. Greg Coile, project manager for the Army’s tactical network, told Space News at the Association of the U.S. Army’s annual symposium.
One unique feature are the inflatable antennas which when deflated can be folded and packed in a small bag. The T2C2 antenna is made by Cubic GATR Technologies and the networking kit is supplied by PacStar.
The system got positive reviews from soldiers last year during an operational test in Fort Richardson, Alaska. “A year later we’re fielding it,” said Coile. A two-soldier team can carry the system: one brings the antenna and the other the networking gear.
T2C2 comes in a light air-droppable version and a heavy version that is packaged in five hard sided cases. They can support anywhere from five to up to 100 users depending on the available bandwidth.The antennas are compatible with X-band, Ku-band and Ka-band, said Jack Arnold, of Cubic GATR. The light version is 1.2 meter wide and the heavy is 2.4 meters. Arnold said the antennas provide the same capabilities as much larger ones. The T2C2 dish is made of flexible material, and sits in the middle of the inflated ball.
The Army recently awarded the first T2C2 full rate production order, worth about $60 million, for 51 1.2 meter light systems and 55 2.4 meter heavy systems. The Army is authorized to spend up to $522 million for 400 heavy systems and 443 of the light version.
Coile’s office is fielding T2C2 systems to 10 brigades in fiscal year 2018 and is projected to field to another 22 units in fiscal year 2019. To date units in the 82nd Airborne, 101st Airborne, 25th Infantry Division and 10th Mountain Division among others have been fielded T2C2 kits.
PacStar provides a baseband networking system that consists of commercial routers, switches and servers.
PacStar Vice President Jeff Sinclair Sinclair said the Army is now emphatic that battlefield communications equipment has to be mobile and easy to deploy. “It’s a bit of a departure,” he said. “The Army typically deploys with large communications systems and platforms.”
The T2C2 communications systems are now being fielded to the Army’s Security Forces Assistance Brigades, which train foreign allies. “They need a small rugged network. Instead having to transport it in a large truck, they can parachute it or airdrop it in,” said Sinclair.
The company announced at AUSA it is introducing a small server for data storage that is about the size of a paperback novel.