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UK Royal Marines to get tropospheric scatter communications capability

The Comtech troposcatter COMET system with its 1 m dish showing a BLOS communications path of 41.9 km. (Spectra)

Spectra Group has been awarded a contract to supply Comtech Systems' tropospheric scatter Compact Over-the-horizon Mobile Expeditionary Terminal (COMET) to the UK Royal Marines (RM), the company announced on 17 March.

Representatives did not disclose further details regarding the contract value and equipment numbers.

The contract was placed through the NATO Support and Procurement Agency (NSPA), making COMET available to all NATO countries for the next three years via the NATO catalogue.

Tropospheric scatter (troposcatter) technology uses microwave radio signals transmitted on a narrow beam, which are scattered as they pass through the troposphere. Some of the signal is reflected back to Earth to a receiver, providing beyond-line-of-sight (BLOS) communications.

Troposcatter is satellite-independent, effective in high latitudes, and works in global navigation satellite system (GNSS)-denied or degraded environments. The low-power directional signal using complex waveforms is also difficult to detect.

According to Spectra, the manportable COMET system has a range of up to 60 km with a data throughput of 5–60 Mbps and typical latency of 9–20 ms, although “in practice data transfer speeds can be greater”. The system uses a 1 m dish and has a maximum transmit power of 10 W. It is packed in two cases each weighing about 25 kg, can be set up by one person, and be operational within 15 minutes, according to the company.

In 2019 Spectra was awarded a five-year contract as the UK distributor of Comtech products. In 2020 it demonstrated the COMET system at the UK's Army Warfighting Experiment, which focused on identifying new technology to improve the agility and resilience of command, control, and communications (C3).

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