Navy Taps Iridium to Implement Phase 3 of DTCS Program

Handheld radios using the Iridium satellite network will provide over-the-horizon, beyond line-of-sight tactical networks for warfighters on the move.
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The U.S Navy has awarded an additional contract—valued at $13.4 million—to Iridium Communications Inc., of McLean, Va., to implement Phase 3 of the Navy’s “Distributed Tactical Communications System” (DTCS) program.

Awarded by the U.S. Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren, the DTCS program—also called “Netted Iridium”—features handheld push-to-talk (PTT) radios that use the Iridium satellite network to provide over-the-horizon, beyond line-of-sight tactical networks for warfighters on the move. There are currently 5,600 active Netted Iridium radios, and in addition to PTT voice calls, the devices can transmit real-time position location information, providing a common tactical and operational picture for all users on the network.

The Department of Defense (DoD) has deployed DTCS radios to support operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, and Iridium is becoming a strategic component of the DoD communications toolkit, according to the company. In addition, the Defense Information Systems Agency is deploying the DTCS radios through its “enhanced mobile satellite services” program management office.

“Phase 2 of the DTCS program, which is currently deployed, provides expanded net footprints out to 250 miles and increases the number of available nets to 16,000,” said Scott Scheimreif, Iridium’s vice president of government programs.

Under the new contract, Iridium is to further enhance the overall DTCS infrastructure, including the implementation of “theater-wide” or “global reach” nets, allowing greater efficiency, higher capacity and improved quality of service, Iridium says. “We view Phase 3 as a strategic investment in the program, and are now working on additional architecture enhancements that will improve scalability and latency for enhanced communication and situational awareness of the warfighter,” Scheimreif said.

“DTCS represents a real breakthrough in mobile military communications, leveraging Iridium’s far-reaching global network architecture to provide critical tactical communications for warfighters in places where line-of-sight radios and satellite systems are often blocked by terrain,” said retired U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. John Campbell, executive vice president for government programs at Iridium. “The DTCS radios are easy-to use, lightweight and require no deployed infrastructure, making them ideal for dismounted warfighters on the move.”

Iridium is working closely with its customer and partners on innovative new technologies to provide beyond-line-of-sight two-way command and control, and improved situational awareness down to the handheld device, the company says. “Phase 3 implementation will support a high volume of reporting devices on a real-time basis due to increased efficiency up to 30 times from the current implementation,” Scheimreif added.