Next Generation Tactical and Mobile Satcom Systems Study

  • Status
  • Status date
  • Activity Code

The Study was conducted on behalf of ESA and the European Defence Agency (EDA) and looked into tactical satellite communications within the military tactical environment (both UHF TacSat and commercial mobile satellite systems used within this context).  


In particular, the study’s objectives were to:

  • Develop a set of Use Cases to identify requirements of tactical satellite and to describe how tactical satellite is currently used in theatre (and building upon previous EDA study work).
  • From these Uses Cases, identify Capability Gaps in the current tactical and mobile satcom systems in supporting these needs.
  • Develop system-level Solutions that address these Capability Gaps, based on existing or planned UHF, L-band and S-band systems, or combinations of these, that can be operational before 2020.
  • Identify and cost technical developments for these Solutions and propose roadmaps for these developments.

The Study was therefore aimed at supporting the enhancement of tactical satellite communications for European Defence Forces, of all sizes, within the 2020 timeframe.


The key issues addressed by this Study are as follows:

  • There is a fundamental lack of UHF channels available for use by EDA member states.
  • UHF capacity prices are expensive, but DAMA and IW techniques are not currently widely utilised, reducing channel usage efficiency and increasing costs.
  • There is a lack of suitable “mobile” satellite spectrum available for military usage worldwide, as an alternative to UHF.
  • Smaller EDA states often have no access to tactical satellite capacity, unless participating on coalition operations.
  • Finally, UHF radio production is dominated by US manufacturers, making any changes for European needs difficult to implement.

The key benefits of the Study are:

  • A consolidated set of verified requirements and typical Use Cases were developed against which differing solution options were judged, ensuring that the Study recommendations are based firmly on the needs of the military community.
  • The Study explored the most cost–effective methods of increasing the overall available tactical satellite system capacity and the number of channels that are available for use by EDA member states, allowing wider use of tactical satellite by European deployments.
  • The Study investigated ways of ensuring low cost access to tactical satellite for all EDA Member States, whatever their size, and even if they own no tactical satellite capacity in their own right. 
  • The Study also evaluated different methods for increasing competition within the tactical satellite service delivery, to drive down service costs and reduce Europe’s reliance on US manufactures of tactical satellite equipment.

The study developed a number of architectural solutions to address the fundamental problems and capability gaps associated with current tactical satellite systems.  The Study solutions range from non-technical solutions, such as sharing of UHF channels between EDA member states, through to technical solutions such as processing of signals at hub earth stations.

The final set of solutions that have been identified include:

  • Re-banding to L -Tac – Re-banding of UHF signals to L-band to alleviate lack of UHF capacity, implemented in mission configurable user appliqués;
  • Ground-based processingSimple Access Scheme – Simple access scheme implemented in user appliqués in order to stop unauthorised usage of channels;
  • Ground-based processing - Interference Suppression – On-board satellite digital sampling of UHF spectrum, cross-banding and transmission to hub station, interference suppression (and potentially AJ) using digital signal processing in the hub and then up-linking to the satellite for onward transmission to receiving terminals;
  • Ground Based Processing – Interconnect Gateways - Use of interconnect gateways to connect UHF users to users on commercial systems (L-Tac or Iridium PTT);
  • Channel Pooling & Sharing – UHF DAMA and commercial - EDA acting as an aggregator of service demand to allow easier and more cost-efficient access for smaller nations to UHF and commercial tactical systems. Within this role EDA could also act as a “centre of excellence and knowledge” for tactical satellite for its member states and shaping requirements for industry;
  • Securing Commercial Services – Iridium PTT – Improving security of commercial systems (Iridium PTT in particular) and allowing national assurance of services.

An outline architecture was then developed for each solution and the solution was assessed against a developed set of evaluation criteria and user scenarios.


The Study had four Work Series (WS):

  • WS1000 focused on the development of a set of User Requirements and Usage Scenarios and then identified Capability Gaps in current tactical satellite systems.
  • WS2000 developed system solutions (options) to address the Requirements and Capability Gaps in the context of the Usage Scenarios, focusing on UHF, L-band, S-band and hybrid solutions.
  • WS3000 validated these options against the Usage Scenarios and obtained feedback on options from the user community.
  • Finally, WS4000 presented the conclusions and recommendations of the Study together with a development roadmap to 2020 for key technologies to support the recommendations
Current status

The project was completed (February 2016).

The initial phase of the Study incorporated discussions with a range of end users and other interested entities from tactical satellite community, including satellite operators and procurement agencies.  This led to a consolidated set of requirements and a number of “key considerations” that repeatedly arose during the discussions. In parallel, a number of typical usage scenarios for tactical satellite were drawn up by the study team’s military experts and then verified with the wider user community. Further analysis has identified the key Capability Gaps in the current system.

Phase 2 developed a list of high-level solution options, with rough order magnitude (ROM) costs, and went through a “down selection” process using agreed evaluation criteria.  The surviving solutions were further refined and costed to provide a set of solutions that were evaluated in detail.

The final phase of the Study discussed the proposed solutions, and their associated benefits, with EDA member representatives, refined the options further, and then developed a roadmap for the necessary technology development to support the proposed solutions within the 2020 timeframe

Prime Contractor