March 3, 2012: SOCOM (Special Operations Command) is buying $170 million of new satellite communications gear. What's special about this new stuff is that it's portable (via hummer or backpack) and provides Special Forces operators with high speed communications (up to 100,000 bytes per second or more) using 60 cm (two foot) satellite dishes. Special Forces operators need these communications tool for when they are out in the hills, out beyond cell phones and most wireless forms of communication. Satellite phones have been used for over a decade but these devices have limited data capacity.
Typical portable systems weigh less than 15 kg (33 pounds) and can be carried in two suitcases or in a backpack. This gear can operate off battery power and are rugged enough to survive water, sand, extreme temperatures, and other hard knocks. These systems allow a Special Forces team to access multiple live video feeds, as well as downloading complex maps and other images. All this is heavily encrypted to make eavesdropping very difficult.
Set up time is less than ten minutes and the small dish will automatically locate and lock onto the desired satellite. This equipment has been available for over two decades but they have become smaller, cheaper, faster, more rugged, and reliable every year. Most importantly, they do not require a communications specialist to set up or operate. SOCOM has several thousand of these portable systems.