Special Operations Forces (SOF) and X-band SATCOM: A Perfect Pairing

Since 2001, asymmetric warfare has become a keystone of US warfighting doctrine. Joint Publication 3-05, the DoD manual detailing asymmetric warfare, describes the complex nature of these “asymmetric” activities known as special operations, which range from direct action and counter-terrorism to foreign internal defense and humanitarian assistance. These operations are highly mobile, very specialized, and deploy into many of the world’s harshest operating environments – and they require a highly-specialized, all-weather satellite radio frequency (RF) band up to the task. This week, let’s quickly examine how X-band directly supports the special operations warfighter:

Virtually Weatherproof – Extremely low rates of atmospheric attenuation means that X-band SATCOM remains robust in the harshest weather conditions on the planet. X-band’s weatherproof characteristics mean that U.S. special operations forces can safely operate anywhere, anytime, any place – even in rain, in sand storms, and in virtually all of the world’s harshest operating conditions. Other frequency bands must overcome the effects of atmospheric RF attenuation (also called “rain fade”) by utilizing costly spread spectrum techniques and significantly more link margin, and cost, to maintain 99.5% link availability. But don’t take our word for it; it is science:


High Throughput – X-band’s unique position on the RF spectrum permits it to easily support voice, data, imagery, and HD video – while still offering a weatherproof signal:


High Mobility – As stated above, special operations are characterized by a high degree of mobility, so the satellite terminals special operations forces around the globe use must be small, lightweight, and highly-portable as well. 4° satellite spacing (twice as much space between orbital slots for X-band satellites than their Ku- and Ka-band counterparts) means less chance of adjacent satellite interference (ASI). This permits these small, lightweight X-band terminals to transmit at high power densities and without using spread-spectrum techniques, and allows X-band to naturally achieve High Throughput Satellite (HTS)-like efficiencies (i.e. performance) 2.5 times better than Ku-band on HTS. As an added benefit, X-band users very often use less space segment and therefore incur lower bandwidth costs than users in other frequency bands.

Conclusion – X-band SATCOM is uniquely capable of supporting special operations – encompassing the entire spectrum of military operations. It is a virtually weatherproof signal that operates in the world’s harshest weather conditions, offers high throughput, and high portability – all of which are extremely important to the special operations warfighter. Almost as important, X-band is extremely efficient and thus saves resources, permitting SOF budgets to generate more asymmetric power. X-band’s balance of properties are so specialized that X-band is specifically designated by the United Nations’ International Telecommunications Union (ITU) for use by military and government customers only. If your mission is military or government, it is yours – you only need to ask for it.