Automated multi-orbit and multi-network switching may bolster U.S. and allied military communications in crises in which adversaries attempt to jam such communications and in geographical areas that encounter signal disruptions.

Allowing such communications resilience for U.S. military aircraft and drones and ground operators was the aim of a recent demonstration by Honeywell [HON], SES, and Hughes.

The companies said on Dec. 20 that airborne demonstrations used Honeywell’s JetWave MCX terminal with a Hughes HM-series modem, paired with SES satellites in Medium-Earth Orbit (MEO) and Geostationary Earth Orbit (GEO).

The tests demonstrated GEO/MEO dynamic link switching with connections moving  between links in under 30 seconds, the companies said. The demonstrations showed the JetWave MCX terminal met military communication resilience requirements called PACE (primary alternate contingency and emergency). SES’ MEO constellation provided lower latency with full duplex data rates of more than 40 megabits per second, the companies said.

SES said that its multiorbit network has more than 70 GEO and O3b MEO satellites.

Rick Lober, vice president of Hughes Defense, said in a statement that the Hughes demonstration equipment and systems integration “enabled far greater throughput — ideal for both en-route and air-to-ground applications — and showcased how our low probability of intercept/low probability of detection waveform can enhance the military’s PACE planning.”

SES said that its second-generation MEO system, O3b mPOWER, “will deliver unprecedented throughput with increased flexibility to adjust forward and return link data ratios securely.”

“This makes it a game-changer for today’s intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions that rely on real-time information exchange and analysis of sensitive mission data,” per SES. “When operational in 2022, O3b mPOWER will be capable of delivering from tens of megabits to multiple gigabits per second to support government applications in any location.”

Hughes said that automated, multi-network and multi-orbit switching will prove advantageous to military operators to allow them to focus on their mission, rather than being delayed for minutes at a time diagnosing and fixing a signal disruption that algorithms can solve.
“We see switching SATCOM [satellite communications] signals as a way to leverage software-enabled technology to enhance operations by the human operator,” Hughes said. “There are several steps involved in switching and how they are handled is what matters.  The SATCOM signal gets disrupted. The aircraft operator needs to detect the disruption, then react quickly and work to fix the disruption with a new signal. These steps take human focus and time and they must be done accurately.”

“To switch using the Hughes HM series system, the steps above are done autonomously,” the company said. “The switching of the signal this way or the manual way takes about the same time, but all of the other steps must be done first.”

Steven Williams, the vice president of Defense Americas for Honeywell Aerospace, said in a statement that “the ability to give network choices to operators using our agnostic terminal means the customer can choose the best network for the mission and geographic region.”