Global Broadcast Service: the military’s ‘direct TV’, now available in a rucksack

Original Article: AirForce Material Command

U.S. service members will soon be able to receive secure data and cable-quality video in near real-time, even in the most remote parts of the world, using smaller, lighter-weight equipment.

On Sept. 28, 2015, officials here awarded a contract to AQYR Technologies, a small business located in Hollis, New Hampshire, for the production of rucksack-portable receive suites, also known as RPRS. The suites are part of the Global Broadcast Service, also known as GBS, a joint program based out of Hanscom that delivers a full spectrum of communications to U.S. warfighters.

The 150-unit RPRS order is valued at just under $14 million and is part of a larger, five-year indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity production contract that has a ceiling of $100 million.

Utilized by all branches of the military and multiple government agencies, GBS operates as a one-way distributor of timely video products as well as unclassified and classified data.

GBS transfers information via Ka band frequencies through Wideband Global SATCOM systems to geographically separated and isolated parties. Information sources vary, but some examples include near-real time feeds from intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance platforms; weather reports; mission data libraries and various cable news channels.

“Think of it like a militarized ‘direct TV’ or direct personal computer,” said Kathleen Tubridy, GBS deputy program manager. “It’s one-way video or data, with an antenna and digital boxes, including crypto capabilities, which now comes in a more compact size and is able to fit into a rucksack.”

The 22-pound rucksack unit is the latest technology added to the line of portable receive suites that includes a larger suitcase model and is geared for special operation forces. It’s powered by either an AC source or battery and is comprised of a mini-modem, laptop, crypto component and antenna.

During a recent visit to Robins AFB, Georgia, program officials tested the RPRS with combat communication operators who serve as battlefield first responders.

“We received good feedback on the new rucksack units,” said Capt. Dylan Smith, GBS systems engineer. “This system is specifically designed not only to be lighter in weight and more compact, but also user-friendly and easy to set up as well.”

While the rucksack model is new, GBS has been in existence for more than 20 years and is highly valued among warfighters from all military branches.

Combat forces deem GBS an integral ISR tool and critical asset, since it has the capability to relay near real-time, full-motion unmanned aerial vehicle video across the theater. Navy operators on the U.S.S. Teddy Roosevelt, for example, have labeled the service as their “primary imagery delivery workhorse.” What’s more, President Obama used GBS to help deliver his September 11 troop address because the service is able to make contact with military members who would normally be out of reach.

While all Services benefit from the use of GBS, the recent contract award holds special meaning to Hanscom in particular — it is the base’s largest Small Business Innovation Research contract to date.

For some time now, the Air Force has placed a heavy emphasis on promoting small business participation, which ultimately results in greater competition and a better quality of products for the Service. According to GBS program officials, contracts such as these allow small companies to grow into a market they would not normally have access to and become competitive with larger Department of Defense contractors.

Officials anticipate the first delivery of rucksack units the second quarter of 2016 and expect to field 10-15 units per month thereafter.

“GBS provides data and video to disadvantaged warfighters, and the new RPRS will bring a whole new element of versatility,” said Donna Durante, GBS program manager. “It extends communication to the edge.”

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