By LuAnne FantasiaFebruary 4, 2009
Feb. 3, 2009-Time and communications are critical to operation security in a down-range environment, where the difference of minutes can save Soldiers' lives. A Huntsville, Ala., company specializing in satellite communications has developed and deployed an ultra-portable communication system that hits the ground running with the warfighter-one that can be on satellite in less than an hour.
"It's a full antenna system that's completely inflatable and portable; supporting first-in, as well as contingency operations," said Paul Gierow, president of GATR Technologies. "It provides high bandwidth for secure and non-secure data, voice and video; and can be ready to transport in as little as 15 minutes. And, it packs into two carrying cases that weigh less than 70 pounds each; so the Soldier can literally travel with it as checked baggage on the airplane."
The system's official name is the Deployable Satellite Communication Terminal, but it is generically called "GATR" by those close to the project.
Gierow said the GATR is in limited production but is already supporting Department of Defense requirements in the U.S. Army Special Operations Command and in Afghanistan.
"We first deployed the system after Hurricanes Katrina and Ike, and it's been working in Afghanistan now for more than eight months. It's successful in cold and hot climates," Gierow added. "We demonstrated it in Germany in January, and it has withstood the extreme heat and dirt in Afghanistan with no problems."
Roy Priest is the program manager for the GATR. "This system replaces much heavier antennas that currently require as many as 10 cases weighing 100 pounds each." He explained that both the radome housing and the collapsible antenna dish inside are made of a flexible fabric that deflates and rolls up into a backpack. The RF feed mechanism, inflation unit, and other accessories to the antenna are easily assembled, disassembled and stored for transport.
"It offers a range of benefits for today and tomorrow's defense," Priest added. "Faster insertion into the environment; reliability; reduced transportation costs; and rapid contingency."
The US Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command Technical Center has contract management responsibilities for the product.