The Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) has completed the installation of a high-speed satellite communication (SATCOM) system on a second C-130J Hercules (RAAF Sl No. A97-467) providing in-flight internet to crew and passengers.
The RAAF is the first C-130J Hercules operator in the world to install the Ka-band SATCOM system in its fleet.
The RAAF will upgrade a total of six C-130Js with the antenna and associated avionics equipment providing them with In-Flight Internet.
The first C-130J was upgraded in late 2017.
The high-speed SATCOM capability would allow aircrew and passengers to better respond during dynamic scenarios, said Commander Air Mobility Group Air Commodore Carl Newman.
The Ka-band capability substantially increases the bandwidth compared to L Band, enabling increased data transmission and simultaneous connections by multiple user of the In-Flight Internet.
“Deploying a Hercules might require a flight of up to 10 hours and, in that time, the operating environment for both the crew and embarked joint capabilities could vary significantly,” Air Commodore Newman said.
“We often deploy the C-130J Hercules as a first responder for missions such as disaster relief, sending them to remote locations where communications infrastructure is often damaged or non-existent.
“Equipping our Hercules with high-speed SATCOM allows control elements, crew and embarked forces alike to conduct mission planning while the C-130J is en route, sending and receiving updates in real time.”
The system allows live-streaming of high-definition video, and connectivity to headquarters and other nodes around the world. Historically, crew and passengers on a Hercules have been limited to using HF radio for long-range communication while in flight.
Each Ka-band modification requires fitting a SATCOM antenna and fairing on the spine of the Hercules, along with equipment inside the cargo bay to provide local and wireless area networks.
The RAAF’s fleet of C-130J Hercules are all part of No. 37 Squadron, which operate from RAAF Base Richmond.
No. 37 Squadron will receive a third upgraded aircraft with the Ka-band SATCOM capability by April 2021.
Airbus Australia Pacific undertook the modification at RAAF Base Richmond, utilising an antenna provided by Honeywell and connectivity to the Inmarsat network.
The RAAF has also trialled remotely piloting an Unmanned Aerial System using the Ka-band SATCOM antenna while the Hercules was in flight, earlier this year.
The RAAF began equipping its fleet of 12 C-130J Hercules with L-band SATCOM in 2015, which provided global voice and limited data connectivity.
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