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Aerospace and Defense Channel

Defense Industry Review YTD; Briefings with Ultra Electronics, 3eTI and Gilat Satellite Networks

March 18, 2013
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The beginning of 2013 started to see revenue results for companies. Most companies reported results that were essentially stable with minor increases or declines year-on-year. Boeing was the exception with revenues growing 19% year-on-year on the back of the company's commercial business. Company results reflected a slowing defense market, but contract activity was surprisingly good in January with new contracts across all sectors including radar, communications and EW.

There were a number of international shows in February providing the stage for companies to establish strategic relationships, form joint ventures and highlight their capabilities as well as signing major contracts. Saab is partnering with Tawazun to create a new UAE-based radar company. Amongst the UAS related developments, Northrop Grumman successfully flew a RQ-4 Global Hawk unmanned aircraft for the first time using open architecture-based command and control software and hardware developed by the company. Other business activity included Boeing and Elbit Systems signing a MoU to support joint pursuit of opportunities for self-defense solutions and the O'Gara Group, completing its purchase agreement to acquire BAE Systems Commercial Armored Vehicles.

Monitoring the Airwaves

Ultra Electronics, 3eTI is a solutions provider supporting the move to net-centricity with the aim of weaving cybersecurity into defense networks. 3eTI builds out wired and wireless networks which provide baseline security and has the flexibility to allow additional sensors to be incorporated. The company has deployed its virtual perimeter monitoring systems (VPMS), based on its VirtualFence solution, and received an approval to operate from the US Navy. By establishing a wireless cloud over a base, 3eTI is also providing solutions such as its EnergyGuard System that can be used to monitor energy usage, allowing even legacy, standalone industrial controls / energy sensors and systems to be layered into the network while maintaining independent operation.

The company is now turning its attention to monitoring the RF spectrum with a new real-time monitoring and intelligent analysis solution that identifies RF interference within broadband wireless spectrum environments and alerts users of in-band and out-of-band emissions that would interfere with customer’s communications within their area of operations. UltraVision Spectrum Manager is designed as an RF monitoring tool that can scan a broad swath of frequencies ranging from 100MHz to 6GHz using a Direction Finding (DF) system with the aim of providing a fixed installation/base with capabilities to monitor potential interference around the site perimeter. Like COMINT, Direction Finding (DF) is an ESM function and simply put, the purpose of DF is to determine from which direction a received signal was transmitted and, when necessary, take tactical offensive or defensive measures to counter the signal. Usually this involves the use of location vans or specialized handheld equipment. Both approaches can be expensive and require a dedicated expert able to operate the equipment and decipher the signals being received to identify sources of interference.

The 3eTI approach builds on the company’s VirtualFence approach and involves the use of fixed units comprising an antenna, coupled with a ruggedized broadband spectrum analyser that interfaces to a Geographic Information System (GIS) type display that alerts the user to interference and provides vector-based angles of arrival on-screen, allowing the source of RF interference to be accurately identified.

The early concept comprised a cylindrical antenna of around 7 to 8 inches in diameter, which was demonstrated to the US Navy in 2012. The final solution comprises a 30-inch dome shaped antenna that provides broader spectrum capability. The passive antenna system connects to a broadband spectrum analyser (the node) comprising a front-end with LNAs and digital receivers offering coverage over 20 MHz channel widths. This unit is typically configured to monitor spectrum in the LMR (380 MHz), Wi-Fi (2.4 GHz) and public safety (4.4, 4.9 GHz) frequencies. An Ethernet connection provides the data back to the operator display and there is also an option to connect the nodes wirelessly back to the operator.

A typical UltraVision Spectrum Manager system comprises the DF antenna designed by 3eTI, coupled with three sensor nodes and the C5I interface, which shows a map of the area, node positions and provides the visual alerts when the nodes detect interference. A system cost is envisaged in the range of $150K, compared to the cost of a handheld device which could cost up to $45K plus the services of a dedicated operator. The final solution – in terms of number of systems needed - would be dependent upon the site in question and factors such as the area to be covered, buildings on-site and the specific frequencies that need to be monitored. Availability for the RF monitoring system will be from Q2 2013 onwards.

Gilat Satellite Networks Targets UAS SOTM

Gilat Satellite Networks provides products and services for satellite-based broadband communications, with both ground segment equipment and VSATs. In operation for over 25 years, Gilat has developed an international footprint providing enterprises, service providers and operators with satellite-based connectivity solutions, including cellular backhaul, banking, retail, e-government and rural communication networks as well as developing an increasing focus on the consumer and Ka-band market. Over the past three years, Gilat has started to address the defense sector by expanding existing modem capabilities into this area as well as through the strategic acquisitions of Raysat Antenna Systems and Wavestream, companies that not only bring capabilities but are already entrenched in military programs.

The move into the defense sector has been driven by two trends which the company believes will underpin military technology investment over the next two to three decades. First is a move towards a net-centric environment which promotes the delivery of IT and communications systems down to the tactical level. Examples in this context include the US Win-T and Indian Tactical Communications Systems (TCS) programs. The ability to be able to deliver information and provide communication at the tactical level will need to be underpinned by equipment capable of providing these capabilities within the SWaP requirements for on-the-move communications.

The second related trend is the increasing use of UAS platforms and a growing need to have BLOS capabilities to enhance the mission envelopes for which these platforms are being used. In addition, the inclusion of BLOS capabilities into missile systems, robotic systems and other platforms is also being actively explored.

To this end, Gilat has been developing internal capabilities as well as acquiring companies to help the company establish an early presence in this market. Raysat Antenna Systems provides low-profile, in-motion, two-way array antennas for OTM applications at the tactical level with solutions target a wide range of platforms from UAS platforms to tanks. Meanwhile, US-based Wavestream was acquired in 2010, and specializes in the provision of high power solid-state amplifiers for integration into systems including defense satellite communication systems with a focus on Ka- and Ku-band as well as offerings in C- and X-band. Central to the company’s technology is the Spatial Power Advantage, which uses spatially power combined amplifiers to produce high to very-high power at microwave and millimeter-wave frequencies using solid-state technologies such as GaAs and GaN while maintaining small form factors and high efficiencies.

Gilat’s own internal capabilities in satellite modems are also being leveraged with the company developing a waveform that can handle small antenna in OTM environments. Key features include the ability to work in low SNR environments, small antenna reacquisition capability, the ability to control antenna and fast reacquisition times of less than 1ms. The modems have been developed in small ruggedized form factor to allow their use in platforms such as tanks.

Ku- and Ka-band is the primary focus for these components as Gilat looks to enable OTM capabilities in small, lightweight terminals that can be targeted at small platforms requiring low profile antennas.  The company has complete terminals in operational use on UAS platforms and ground systems. Both mechanical and phased array antennas are offered and the company is also developing fully phased array antennas. Gilat’s current UAS platform terminal weighs 10.5kg and is capable of transmitting 1Mbps of IP-based data. It comprises a ruggedized spread spectrum Gilat satellite modem, a two-way, on-the-move RaySat flat panel tracking antenna and a compact, up to 40W, Ku-band WaveStream block up-converter (BUC) and power amplifier. Moving forwards, the company is looking to develop a next generation terminal featuring a phased array antenna with the aim of halving the size of the terminal.

Setting up stall early should provide Gilat with an early competitive advantage as demand for SOTM/COTM capabilities continues to increase with target markets including the US as well as emerging markets in Asia and South America.

Recent Articles by Asif Anwar, Program Director, Strategy Analytics

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