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Inmarsat, Hughes develop new manpack satcom solution

The Hughes 9203 BGAN Patrol manpack satcom system shown at the SAE Media Mobile Deployable Communications 2023 conference, London. The white square object is the BGAN modem, which is carried in the backpack. (Giles Ebbutt)

Inmarsat and Hughes have developed a new on-the-move (OTM) manpackable satellite communications (satcom) terminal for use with Inmarsat's L-Band Tactical Satellite (L-TAC) service.

Speaking to Janes at the SAE Media Mobile Deployable Communications 2023 conference in London, Daan Ruhe, Inmarsat global product specialist for L-TAC, said that the Hughes 9203 BGAN Patrol will be available from April 2023 and has three confirmed customers.

Ruhe explained that the current L-TAC system provides an alternative manpack solution to ultra-high frequency tactical communications satellite (UHF TACSAT), offering global beyond-line-of-sight (BLOS) voice and data communications in the L-band frequency range using existing tactical radios and Spectra SlingShot radio frequency (RF) converters.

The current 4-vehicle Inmarsat satellite constellation (I-4) will be enhanced by the addition of two new satellites with dual L/Ka-band payloads to create the I-6 constellation, Ruhe said. I6F1 is in orbit and will become operational in the second quarter (Q2) of 2023. I6F2 will be launched in early 2023 and will begin operations in Q4. He said that I-6 will provide global L-band continuity through to 2040.

Ruhe said that development of the new manpack solution started in late 2021. It utilises Broadband Global Area Network (BGAN – Inmarsat's satellite network) Class 3 and a commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) omnidirectional satcom antenna. It provides up to 100 kbits/s throughput with a stable connection OTM, including at speeds up to 40 km/h during trials on a quad bike.

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