Boeing smart beams counter military com attacks in real-time
As part of a fast-track program to protect military satellite communications (SATCOM), Boeing recently demonstrated its new system at White Sands, New Mexico, that can autonomously detect and counter jamming efforts at the source in real-time.
If you had to choose the single most important technology in the modern military arsenal it would probably be communications. While ships and planes and things that go boom may be more dramatic, communications or the lack thereof can turn the tide of battle very fast – especially with today's globally-networked soldiers.
As communications became more sophisticated, they have not only radically altered military tactics, they have also sparked an invisible arms race that has raged in laboratories throughout the world since at least the early days of the Second World War. One side of this race has been to develop increasingly fast, powerful, and subtle ways of jamming communication channels. On the other is the development of equally advanced counter-jamming methods.
The latest Boeing demonstration was for the US Department of Defence as part of an effort to protect American SATCOMs. It was conducted as a series of simulated exercises using the US Space Force's Protected Tactical SATCOM Prototype (PTS-P) that aims to provide the US military with space-based processing of the Protected Tactical Waveform (PTW), which is a jam-resistant radio signal.
The details of how the new software-based technology works were not released, but the basic idea is that it is able to identify and geolocate a jamming transmission source and then shape a counter-beam to suppress the jamming signal in real-time by analyzing thousands of data points per second.
"Maintaining communication with our deployed forces during hostility gives us a tactical edge on the battlefield," said Justin Bruner, PTS-P Program Manager at the US Space Force. "Our adversaries are always attempting to deny our ability to communicate. On-board, autonomous, real-time nulling of jammers greatly enhances our resiliency, ensuring the United States and our allies can provide our warfighters with secure, reliable communications in a contested environment. Boeing has made significant strides in the development and execution of a nulling algorithm with flight-like firmware, demonstrating agile anti-jam capability. PTS-P and all of our Protected Anti-Jam Tactical SATCOM (PATS) programs are critical to this effort."
In the simulations, the Boeing prototype systems took on numerous simultaneous jamming attacks and autonomously countered these, even when the jamming source was in close proximity.
According to Boeing, more hardware and software demonstrations are scheduled for the coming months and the system will be integrated into a vehicle in 2023, with orbital space demonstrations slated for 2024.
"The Space Force understands these rapid prototyping programs are needed to maintain technical and space superiority," said Troy Dawson, vice president, Government Satellite Solutions at Boeing Defense, Space & Security. "We are innovating to meet the needs of the evolving threat. This requires us to try things that we’ve never tried before, moving quickly, failing quickly, and ultimately fielding first-of-its-kind technology that is ready for the rigors of the battlefield. Our efforts on PTS-P are setting the pace, and blazing a trail that I anticipate many more national security programs will follow."