By David Crane
defrev (at) gmail (dot) com
June 21, 2010
Updated on 6/28/10
Outside the exhibition hall at SOFIC 2010 (Special Operations Infantry Conference 2010), GATR Technologies was showing off their giant beach ball-style 2.4-meter (2.4m) C-band inflatable satellite communications (SATCOM) antenna system. Made from a “flexible conductive composite fabric” capable of enduring “extreme heat, “extreme cold”, and “extreme situations”, the “big GATR” (as DefenseReview is calling it) SATCOM antenna is highly transportable and weighs approx. 18 lbs, and the whole system fits into two “airline checkable” hard cases (roller cases) that each weigh less than 100 lbs, making the whole system a sub-200-lb system.
The GATR antenna uses a flexible parabolic reflector mounted at the ball’s equator. The whole ball is then cabled to the ground and easily pointed using pulleys on ground mounting plates. The ball, or radome, supports the dish, protects it from wind, and keeps it pointed toward the satellite.
The main advantage of the GATR is portability; when the ball is deflated, it rolls up (with the dish inside) like a sleeping bag and weighs 18 lbs., compared to other high-bandwidth dishes that weigh hundreds of pounds and require 4 to 10 transit cases to move.
The antenna bag, blower, hoses and plates all fit in one airline checkable case. An additional case is typically provided for electronics (a modem, spectrum analyzer, RF cables, computer, power inverter, etc.), resulting in a complete, high-bandwidth satellite communications (SATCOM) terminal in two airline checkable cases.
Tested in several situations from missile ranges, extremely tough weather conditions, emergency and disaster response, and even deployed via para-trooper; each time the GATR-Com antenna performed beyond expectations.
The GATR 2.4m enables multiple operators to engage in high-speed secure internet, video conferencing, and VoIP communications while in the field in remote locations. A trained team can set the GATR up and have it properly pointed at a geosynchronous communications satellite within a few minutes. The system does have to be pointed, manually, however (thus the “trained” qualifier).
The GATR-Com 2.4m SATCOM antenna system DefenseReview saw at the show was desert tan in color, but other colors are available. A military Special Operations (SPECOPS) or Special Forces (SF) team, however, would be well advised to utilize some kind of camouflage netting with the GATR–like the SAAB Barracuda multi-spectrum/multi-spectral Ultralight Camouflage Net System (ULCANS) or Ultralight Camouflage System (ULCAS), for instance–so as not to attract undo attention to themselves.
An even better lo-pro (low-profile) tactical comms (tactical communications) solution, though, is the developmental GATR 1-meter (1m) backpackable/manpackable SATCOM antenna system, which the company also had on display on the last day. The GATR 1m system has a much smaller tactical footprint for high-speed/low-drag SPECOPS teams than the GATR 2.4m system, but is more limited in its bandwidth capability. Since keeping a low profile is paramount to most Special Operations teams/units, the 1m system just seems to be the better solution, provided the team doesn’t need more bandwidth than the system can provide. Weighing in at approx. 50 lbs and being backpackable, this is the system that most interests Defense Review. It just seems much more appropriate for SPECOPS use. You can carry two GATR 1m systems at almost half the weight of the full-size GATR 2.4m system, and have redundancy to boot. While the 1m system is still under development, it should be available by the end of the year (2010) or early part of next year (2011). DR will try to get exact bandwidth specs/capabilities on both systems.
DefenseReview is waiting on photos of the GATR 1m system for this article, so please check back in later to view them.
Company Contact Info:
11506 Gilleland Road,
Huntsville, Alabama 35803
Additional GATR Inflatable SATCOM Photos: