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AUSA 2022: Spectra hits 4,000 SlingShot systems for US SOF, plans new generation

The SlingShot vehicle antenna (top) and the manpack antenna (bottom). The lightweight system provides a BLOS capability to tactical VHF/UHF radios and can be used on the move. (Spectra Group)

There are more than 4,000 of Spectra Group's SlingShot satellite communications devices in service with the US Special Operations Forces (SOF), with more than 7,000 devices in over 24 countries currently in use, the company announced during the Association of the United States Army (AUSA) 2022 annual convention in Washington, DC, in October.

SlingShot provides beyond-line-of-sight (BLOS) communications by enabling ultra-high-frequency (UHF) and very-high-frequency (VHF) signal transmissions over a single-hop commercial L-band Inmarsat satellite link, extending communication ranges for tactical radios fielded up to 1,000 mile.

The spot beams used in the SlingShot are about 1,000 mile in diameter, Spectra Group (US) General Manager Pat Gallagher told Janes . He added that the system has the benefit of providing interoperability between VHF and UHF radios.

The SlingShot system consists of a small appliqué unit, which converts the radio frequency (RF) signal to L-Band, and an omnidirectional antenna. It can be powered by military-issue batteries or a power supply unit. At a weight of less than 2 kg, separate SlingShot variants are provided for manpack, vehicles, and airborne systems since the antennas and appliqué units are specifically tuned to each other and are sensitive to different power loading.

The system enables communications-on-the-move (COTM), including from airborne platforms. Its low power output gives a low probability of detection, Gallagher added. The signal from SlingShot looks no different from other commercial transmissions, providing additional concealment. It is also agnostic to encryption systems, as the transmission signal conversion occurs after encryption and before decryption at the receiver.

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