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AUSA 2022: L3Harris rolls-out new satcom mission module

A US Army Ranger lies in the prone position, equipped with L3Harris's AN/PRC-163. (US Army Special Operations Command)

L3Harris Technologies unveiled a new mission module to support tactical radio communications, enabling handheld combat radios to tap into US Space Force's (USSF's) tactical satellite communications (satcom) network.

The mission module, rolled-out during the annual Association of the US Army (AUSA) 2022 conference in Washington, DC from 10 to 12 October, will let the company's AN/PRC-163 two-channel handheld combat radio connect to USSF's Distributed Tactical Communications Systems (DTCS). The introduction of the new module will eliminate the need for US Armed Forces units to carry a separate Iridium satcom radio to connect to the DTCS, according to a 12 October company statement.

“This new capability enables warfighters to stay connected anywhere on the battlefield and provides commanders extraordinary versatility exercising command-and-control,” said Ed Zoiss, the company's president for Space and Airborne Systems. The addition of the new module will not only enable access to the DTCS, but will also enable networked communications “using any combination of satellite communications, mobile ad hoc network, or line-of-sight modes even in situations when one or more connection methods are not available”, company officials said in the statement.

Connected to the AN/PRC-163 either as a direct plug-in or via a tethered cable, the new module can be operated using the same end-user control panel built into the AN/PRC-163, company officials said. The module also runs off the same battery as the two-channel PRC-163, enabling “high assurance voice and data satcom-on-the-move (SOTM) in a combined, small form factor solution that reduces the size, weight, and power (SWaP) burden on the warfighter”, according to a company fact sheet.

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