Protecting the Protectors (Part 2)
August 23, 2021
Countermeasures to thwart the enemy
By Alan L. Lewis
Effective products and services solve real-world problems for customer organizations (i.e., Program and/or Contract Offices, Military units, etc.). Industry obviously focuses on the requirements (e.g., performance work statement or statement of work) laid out in a given procurement to create solutions. However, only standout DoD contractors take the time to uncover the often unspoken underlying “hot buttons” important to a broad range of customer stakeholders including the warfighters. It’s a problem set well worth examining and resolving judiciously.
In Part 1 of the Protecting the Protectors blog, I highlighted four elements important to safety in the system-level design relative to Satellite Communications (SATCOM). Another factor to consider to accomplish this ideal of providing protective measures for our protectors is countermeasures to thwart enemy assaults from a SATCOM perspective.
On the battlescape, enemies use tools like reconnaissance aircraft, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV), drones, radar, and satellite imagery to carry out real-time surveillance. Providing protective countermeasures to the warfighter by developing and/or incorporating equipment to conceal the warfighter’s location, capabilities, and/or vulnerabilities can prevent or mitigate these types of surveillance activities.
For instance, tenting/canvas covers for many systems offer a simple, flexible, and low-cost solution in this regard. This functionality not only hides the terminal visually (i.e., shapes and light), but can also be designed to camouflage the thermal signature, sound, and magnetism emanating from the equipment. The covering helps prevent casting of shadows and disrupts equipment outlines by mimicking the surrounding terrain color and texture depend on the area of operation). Textiles may also help conceal the equipment from night vision instruments. Coverings help protect the terminal from the elements, such as sand, wind, water, dust, direct sunlight, and heat thus extending equipment life and ensuring operational performance when needed by the warfighter. Components with blackout lights and/or a cover that hides the lights (vehicle lights, equipment LEDs/LCDs, etc.), will greatly improve concealment when operating in-theater or adverse environments.
Additional tools include implementing low-heat signature radiating devices into many solutions. Electronics and power sources (e.g., generator, Uninterrupted Power Supply (UPS), etc.) contribute to an overall heat signature. High Performance Amplifiers (HPAs) and integrated Block Upconverter (BUC)/Solid State Power Amplifiers (SSPAs) using Gallium Nitride (GaN) technology can effectively diminish the heat signature, thereby providing increased power efficiency for many devices. These improvements can provide tangible Size, Weight and Power (SWaP) enhancements. Additionally, employing low-to-no heat producing generators, battery-operated, and solar powered solutions will all reduce the heat signature of SATCOM systems.
DoD SATCOM systems provide the needed data exchange between the warfighter and command and control centers enabling warfighters to conduct missions safely and reliably. Advanced communications requirements in response to evolving enemy tactics, along with the increasing complexity of the battlescape, make communications more critical now than ever before.
I recently read a quote from Phil Schiller, renowned 30+ year Apple products and marketing executive and now Apple Fellow, who said, “It’s not just enough to make something—you have to make it in a way that has meaning in people’s lives.” Industry should elevate its consciousness by reaching beyond the apparent technical requirements to decipher the intimate aspects of their solutions to ensure they are meaningful to all stakeholders, certainly from a technology perspective, but also taking into consideration the practical applications that help ensure the welfare of the Military’s most valuable resource—the warfighter.
By Alan L. Lewis, CP APMP, Senior Proposal Manager at Envistacom
Contributors also include Dexter Campbell, Director Army and USMC Programs, and Dewell Mitchell, Director of Sales Engineering.