Skip to content

Ever wonder why so many critical, lifesaving radar applications operate in X-band?

You may have never noticed, but X-band is all around you. Many police speed-trap radars used to enforce safe speeds, and even air traffic control radars used for aircraft collision avoidance, all operate in X-band. Not only that, but critical military applications, such as the Department of Defense’s own Wideband Global Satellite (WGS) constellation, ballistic missile defense applications such as Raytheon’s venerable AN/TPY-2 early warning radar, Missile Defense Agency’s SBX-1 (Sea Based X-band Radar), and NASA’s Deep Space Network connecting engineers to the Mars missions all utilize X-band. This isn’t by accident. It’s physics, and it’s very intentional: X-band has a unique ability to handle high rates of data throughput while also being extremely resistant to atmospheric attenuation. And it does all of this exceptionally well from small, lightweight (18″ and under) mobile SATCOM terminals.

freq

High Data Throughput. As the above infographic demonstrates, lower radio frequencies simply cannot achieve the higher data rates required for today’s data, imagery, and HD video needs, and are thus generally reserved for low-throughput, all-weather voice or data communications. X-band’s unique combination of properties permit it to easily handle voice, data, imaging, and high-resolution video – just as it permits high-resolution returns on aircraft and missile radar paints.

High Resistance to Atmospheric Attenuation. It is widely accepted that radio frequencies above 10 GHz attenuate dramatically due to atmospheric conditions such as high humidity, rain, thunderstorms – even sandstorms and airborne dust. Because X-band attenuates far less rapidly in adverse weather, less power and bandwidth is needed to close and maintain a communications link. Given the attenuation issues with Ku-band (12-18GHz) and Ka-band (26.5–40 GHz), using these bands suddenly becomes much less appealing during critical military operations or whenever lives are on the line. By eliminating the effects of weather, the warfighter has increasing certainty and advantage on the battlefield.

Excels with Small SATCOM Terminals. X-band satellites are spaced a minimum of 4* apart. This wide spacing permits the use of smaller terminals operating at higher power – and higher efficiency – than Ku- and Ka-band. Translated, X-band’s efficiencies permits higher throughput using less bandwidth (and cost) to close a link. Using the same sub-meter terminal, X-band naturally achieves much greater efficiencies than Ku- or Ka-band – achieving .64 bits/Hz in X-band compared to only .26 bits/Hz in Ku- pushed through a High Throughput Satellite.

Conclusion. X-band occupies a strategic position in the radio spectrum, and is reserved for government and military use for a reason. It is highly efficient at handling voice, data, imagery, and HD video, while being extremely resistant to atmospheric attenuation. Consequently, X-band systems are everywhere, and are utilized in the most mission-critical, lifesaving, and mobile applications, clearly helping police distinguish speeding cars during pouring rain, civilian aircraft approaching an airport for landing during snowstorms, and even incoming enemy aircraft and ballistic missiles flying at supersonic speeds. It is also used by military forces for communications purposes while operating in some of the toughest weather conditions on the planet. It is no wonder that X-band is one of only two RF bands on the Dept of Defense’s own Wideband Global SATCOM constellation.

X-band’s performance is so good, it is literally everywhere.