Delivering the Tactical Network from the Sky
"This test was a great success in support of ESB-E and has given us a documented drop record for the Hawkeye III Lite product."
On the morning of November 2nd, a U.S. Air Force C-130 flying at 1,250 feet made a slow pass over a designated drop zone and successfully executed an equipment air-drop test. Everything worked as planned: the rigging and hard cases ensured that the cargo inside was protected; the parachutes deployed as expected; and the landing was on-target and otherwise uneventful.
To the casual observer, the low-velocity air-drop was just a routine test at MacDill Air Force Base. This test, however, represented a milestone for the technology slung under the parachutes and was a big deal for the warfighters who need high-speed data communications anywhere—including places that can be quickly reached from the sky.
Tightly packed in two protective cases were all the necessary components to deploy—in a matter of minutes—an L3Harris Hawkeye III Lite 1.2M Very Small Aperture Terminal (VSAT) capable of providing high-speed data communications for Internet, VPN connectivity and video transmission.
The Hawkeye family of quick-deploy VSAT terminals has been a mainstay in the U.S. Army’s technology arsenal, dating back nearly two decades when during Operation Iraqi Freedom, Hawkeye II 1.2M terminals enabled soldiers to coordinate logistics for forward-deployed forces. Enhancements to the current generation of Hawkeye technology include a bigger satellite dish (without a significant impact on weight or portability) and an auto-acquire feature that streamlines system set-up.
The Army Expeditionary Signal Battalions-Enhanced (ESB-E) and Joint Communications Support Element (JCSE) performed the air-drop test of the Hawkeye III Lite solution in order to assess the technology’s jump capabilities. Expeditionary Signal Battalions (ESB) provide tactical network communications to support other units, connecting mission command with forward deployed units maneuvering across the battlefield.
ESB-E is a modular, scalable, more agile version of the ESB, currently being piloted by the Army. ESB-E provides alternative tactical network equipment, most often lighter and highly mobile technologies, that complement the legacy Warfighter Information Network Tactical (WIN-T) equipment.
According to Sgt. Phillip Chang, who led C Company 50th Expeditionary Signal Battalion-Enhanced Team 5065's effort for the U.S. Army Signal Corps, “In addition to assessing the jump capabilities of the equipment, an important part of the air-drop test was measuring the realistic timeline from the moment the equipment cases reach the ground to the pull-up of communications services.” Chang added, “The ESB-E team recovered the cargo within 15 minutes, and had the system deployed within another 15 minutes. The entire process—from rigging the cargo to acquiring the satellite—was very streamlined and helped by the Hawkeye III’s combination of lightweight modular design and auto-acquire antenna system.”
While the data from the air-drop test is still being evaluated, informal feedback from the testing team has been a positive validation of the performance and jump-capable portability of the Hawkeye III Lite technology. “This test was a great success in support of ESB-E and has given us a documented drop record for the Hawkeye III Lite product,” said Chris Aebli, President, Global Communication Systems, L3Harris SATCOM Products. “We expect that achieving air-drop certified status for the Hawkeye III Lite 1.2M VSAT will give a ‘green light’ to broader use of this resilient, reliable and highly-portable tactical networking technology across the U.S. Army,” said Aebli.