US Army Using an Inflatable Satellite Antenna for Critical Communications in the Field

The US Army’s 8th Army Unit soldiers, positioned in South Korea, have now been granted access to an inflatable satellite antenna. The soldiers are training on how to set up and use the Combat Service Support Very Small Aperture Terminal (CSS VSAT) Inflatable Satellite Antenna (ISA). For Army logisticians who sustain their units with critical supplies, repair resources and parts, one of their most important tools is the Combat Service Support Very Small Aperture Terminal (CSS VSAT), a mobile satellite terminal found everywhere they operate. Originally fielded in 2004, this workhorse was game changing for logisticians, allowing them to complete supply transactions and receive real-time status updates with critical logistics systems, such as the Global Combat Support System-Army (GCSS-A), from any location.

However, the CSS VSAT did not meet the army's current operational needs for readiness in Korea. Due to its large size and weight (nearly 500 pounds) the system was difficult to transport and deploy, often in challenging terrain. Given these factors, the army needed an answer to improve the CSS VSAT. To overcome this challenge the US Army developed an Inflatable Satellite Antenna (ISA).

The CSS VSAT ISA makes an essential communication tool for logisticians more easily deployable as it is lighter -- by nearly 300 pounds -- and easier to set up than the legacy equipment it is replacing. It also fulfills the need for the expeditionary sustainment that accompanies small, agile, dispersed units in the field under the Multi-Domain Operations doctrine. On the surface, the ISA looks very different than the legacy version, since its dish sits inside a 1.2-meter inflatable ball manufactured by GATR Technologies, a subsidiary of the Cubic Corporation. The system can be set up by just two soldiers in less than 30 minutes, compared to more than 45 minutes for the previous system.

The original CSS VSAT operated only in the commercial Ku band. This was a major liability as adversaries could jam that specific band. However, the ISA version can operate not only in Ku, but in the military X and Ka bands as well. This gives operators more flexibility to switch bands for different circumstances and in case adversaries jam any one band. The Army is also replacing all Combat Service Support Automated Information System Interface (CAISI) configuration laptops with new units that provide better cybersecurity.

In fiscal years 2019-2020, U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Command (CECOM) is partnering with Program Executive Office Enterprise Information Systems (PEO-EIS) to field this major improvement to the CSS VSAT in Korea and with Focused Readiness Units.

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