21.2.2020

General Atomics tests space laser communication system for MQ-9

General Atomics tests space laser communication system for MQ-9 – link

Source: Flight Global

Article Headlines

  • General Atomics Aeronautical Systems has successfully tested on the ground a space laser communication system that it intends to use to securely transfer data between its MQ-9 UAV and satellites
  • From an optical observatory located on Tenerife in the Canary Islands in the Atlantic Ocean, the company’s Airborne Laser Communication System recently established a link with a satellite in geo-synchronous Earth orbit, it says on 20 February
  • The test was done in partnership with Tesat-Spacecom using that company’s GEO Laser Communication Terminal, the LCT 135.
  • “This was the first demonstration of an air-to-space lasercom system with size, weight and power that is compatible with a medium-altitude, long-endurance [UAV],” says General Atomics
  • General Atomics says its laser has 300 times the data-carrying capacity of conventional radio frequency SATCOM systems. The Airborne Laser Communication System will also be able to operate as a gateway to the US military’s Joint Aerial Network for forward-deployed forces, says the company

Overview & Comments

  • Aside from legacy anti-air means the cyber protection, within datalink systems, is very critical in modern warfare with regards to UAVs
  • Spoofing & jamming are a common threat in many operational theatres active today, up to efforts in actively trying to take control of the systems
  • Thus, “datalink assurance” is the new air-superiority addition needed for the modern area of operation
  • New forms of encryptions and/or datalinks are a must for current systems
  • In general, with regards to air-superiority, UAS are more vulnerable than other air assets as they usually employ several components that are vulnerable aside from the aerial platform itself – for example the GCS, Ground Datalink Terminals, Satellites (SATCOM) etc.
  • See “Quantem based datalink” 

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