Boeing to introduce flat satellite antenna to bring high-speed broadband to military aircraft

The preliminary goal marketplace for the phased array antenna and terminal can be operators of militarized Boeing jets just like the Navy’s P-8 surveillance plane and the KC-46 aerial refueling tanker.

WASHINGTON — Boeing Phantom Works, the corporate’s superior expertise arm, is introducing a brand new flat satellite tv for pc antenna that may carry high-speed broadband to army plane.

The low-profile electronically steered antenna and a multi-channel terminal can be in manufacturing subsequent yr and the launch buyer would be the Navy’s future unmanned mid-air refueling tanker, the MQ-25, which Boeing is growing below an $805 million contract.

Boeing Phantom Works’ phased array antenna.

The preliminary marketplace for the phased array antenna and terminal can be operators of militarized Boeing jets just like the Navy’s P-8 surveillance plane and the Air Power’s KC-46 aerial refueling tanker, Thomas Gathmann, director of mission integration mission options at Boeing Phantom Works, informed table4 Could 7 on the Satellite tv for pc 2019 convention.

In comparison with airborne command facilities such because the president’s Air Power One, most army plane have restricted connectivity. The vast majority of army plane have narrowband terminals that get kilobits of information. A phased array antenna would give them entry to  authorities and industrial Ka-band satellites that present from 10s to 100s of megabits of information throughput, Gathmann mentioned.

The terminal that Boeing designed could be configured with as much as 5 modems and three providers concurrently so customers can faucet into the army’s Wideband World Satcom constellation or industrial Ka-band satcom suppliers. Boeing’s earlier generations of phased array antennas solely supported Ku-band. “We’ve seen the market transfer to Ka band,” mentioned Gathmann. There was a studying curve within the transition to Ka, he mentioned. “We’re actually concentrating on elevated efficiency at a value level that’s similar to mechanically steered parabolic antennas with radomes.”

Price has been a hurdle within the adoption of electronically steered antennas. Though the army market has the next value level than industrial, Boeing wanted to make its newest product extra aggressive. In 2014, the corporate teamed with Panasonic to design an electronically steered phased array antenna that price $1 million every, which was too costly to compete with mechanically steered antennas.

Gathmann mentioned he couldn’t give particular costs however instructed the brand new antenna can be in a value vary nearer to $500,000. By comparability, the holy grail for industrial airways is $100,000 per antenna. “The expertise isn’t fairly there however we’re getting shut,” he mentioned.

Jeff Bennett, head of Boeing Phantom Works international gross sales and advertising and marketing, mentioned the brand new {hardware} was designed to resolve a number of issues raised by prospects. One is the benefit of set up. The antenna is lower than 8 centimeters tall and wouldn’t impression plane efficiency, Bennett mentioned. One other demand from prospects is to have entry to a number of providers — authorities and industrial Ka-band in addition to future broadband constellations in low Earth orbit which might be beginning to get constructed.

Boeing Phantom Works’ multi-channel terminal

Plane operators flying over lengthy distances need to have the ability to seamlessly change from one satellite tv for pc hyperlink to a different, mentioned Bennett. With new LEO providers coming, “the one approach you possibly can presumably observe these satellites is with electronically steered arrays.”

Gathmann mentioned the army fleet has been sluggish to undertake fashionable satcom programs. Price is one cause but additionally issues about having to take plane wanted within the discipline to upkeep depots to get new {hardware} put in. Boeing must persuade consumers that the set up of the gear won’t disrupt operations. “Usually with prospects we’re in an training mode,” he mentioned.

The MQ-25 plane carrier-based unmanned refueling tanker was chosen because the launch buyer due to its demanding necessities for knowledge storage and streaming. The Navy additionally plans to make use of it as an intelligence collector. “They want a giant pipe on board,” Gathmann mentioned.

One other potential buyer is the Marine Corps’ V-22 Osprey, a hybrid helicopter and fixed-wing plane that has change into a workhorse in army operations around the globe.

“It’s been described by prospects as essentially the most comms poor plane within the DoD fleet at the moment,” Gathmann mentioned. “They’ve a skinny pipe of comms.” The pilots have satisfactory communications however the Marines going into an operation typically don’t have entry to reside streaming to allow them to get up-to-the-minute intelligence. “The blokes within the again don’t have up to date situational consciousness,” Gathmann mentioned. Each the Marine Corps and Particular Operations Forces, who additionally fly the V-22, are goal prospects, he mentioned.

The brand new antenna is anticipated to be in manufacturing by the second quarter of 2020.

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