Intelsat In the News

Navy Plans Expanding Vipersat COMSATCOM Technology in FY’16

  • Publication: Defense Daily
  • Release Date: 

By Pat Host

The Navy plans on expanding a commercial satellite communications (COMSATCOM) technology that enables bandwidth sharing throughout its patrol coastal (PC) fleet by fiscal year 2016.

The technology, known as Vipersat, improves the efficiency of bandwidth purchased by dynamically-adjusting bandwidth among various ships to meet mission and data throughput, or capacity, requirements, according to a Navy spokesman. Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command (SPAWAR) spokesman Steven Davis said Nov. 20 Vipersat allows the Navy to get increased capability without spending additional funding on commercial leases.

Pentagon and Defense Department COMSATCOM provider Intelsat General (IGC) describes Vipersat as sharing bandwidth across multiple sites that transmit and receive only when necessary, rather than having each site use a single channel that ties up bandwidth, even when there is nothing to communicate. IGC is the Commercial Broadband Satellite Program (CSBP) contract holder with the Navy, according to company Vice President for Engineering and Operations Mark Daniels, who said the sea service buys over 500 megahertz (MHz) of bandwidth to support its ships around the world.

Davis said three PC-class ships currently have Vipersat capability and that a fully operational Vipersat capability is expected to be delivered to the entire PC fleet by the end of FY ’17. The Navy has a total of 13 PC-class ships. In an operational capability, according to a Navy briefing slide, combined with a steerable spot beam capability, a carrier strike group can dynamically share bandwidth while transiting across regions and into remove locations.

IGC, Daniels said, allocates a certain amount of bandwidth among a pool of ships, however many there may be. Vipersat allows IGC to set data rates for each ship,  depending on what the Navy wants to do. If it is a big deck carrier, Daniels said, the Navy may want a bigger data rate for the ship and possibly smaller ships with smaller data rates. This allows the Navy to surge up and down and use that pool of bandwidth more efficiently, Daniels said.

Daniels said another benefit is ships could get higher data rates than available today because Vipersat would allow one ship to surge while another wasn’t using Vipersat, depending on traffic flow. A third benefit, according to Daniels, is reducing operator workload as it can perform automatically upon configuration.

All equipped large deck/command, surface combatants and support ships are capable of using Vipersat, Davis said, if the Vipersat functionality is enabled. Vipersat is comprised of a shore based Vipersat Management System working in conjunction with the Comtech EF Data SLM-5650A modem with Vipersat functionality enabled.

Comtech EF Data’s SLM-5650A modem, Davis said, is installed as part of the CBSP maritime terminal variants that include Small Ship Variant (patrol craft and mine countermeasure ships), Unit Level Variant (guided missile destroyers, frigates, Littoral Combat Ship and Military Sealift command ships) and Force Level Variant (aircraft carriers, amphibious assault ships, command ships and hospital ships). CBSP does not have a submarine variant, Davis said, thus Vipersat is not applicable to subs.

Vipersat is a Navy-developed technology. The Office of Naval Research’s (ONR) Rapid Technology Transition (RTT) program provided funding that allowed the Vipersat capability to be enabled and tested, Davis said. Validation testing began in 2012 on the SSV terminal and testing is ongoing with the FLV terminal variant. The Vipersat operational testing demonstration and part of an ONR-sponsored even was completed in January, Davis said. Vipersat has its roots in the Navy’s CBSP program, Davis said, which began in 2007 to replace both Inmarsat and Commercial Wideband Satellite Program (CWSP) as the Navy’s COMSATCOM program of record. CBSP consists of two interdependent segments: the terminal segment, comprised of shipboard terminals, and the associated space and terrestrial connectivity segment.

Davis said the CBSP shipboard SATCOM terminal variants are capable of operating in the commercial X-, C- and Ku-bands and the military X- and Ka-bands. CBSP, Davis said, is capable of significantly increasing throughput of data to afloat commanders and increasing overall SATCOM reliability by providing full redundancy for military SATCOM (MILSATCOM) in support of the Maritime Domain Awareness mission, Davis said.

CBSP maritime contracts were awarded to CVG, now part of Norsat International, and Harris [HRS]. Harris in 2008 awarded Comtech EF Data, a subsidiary of Comtech Telecommunications, a $4.5 million contract to provide equipment, including its SLM-5650A military-grade modem, for the Navy’s CBSP.

The Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) in January 2010 awarded IGC a firm-fixed-price, indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity (ID/IQ) contract worth a guaranteed minimum of $10 million for CBSP bandwidth management services. The contract was a one-year base with four one-year options. Period of performance ends Jan. 25. IGC is a subsidiary of Intelsat SA.