Arming our defence forces with clear communications

30 years of defence support

Arming our defence forces with clear communications
By Gary Shmith

For over 30 years members of the EM Solutions team have played a vital role in supporting system integrators and prime contractors to deliver enabling microwave and mechatronic technologies that have helped defence forces across the globe with one of their most important tasks - facilitating clear communications.

Delivering a message or video update from the roughest and most remote places on earth cannot be taken for granted. It requires rugged, broadband, wireless equipment that can be deployed quickly, on the move, and with limited power. The EM Solutions team thrive on challenge, and so it comes as no surprise that they were drawn to the high-stakes and unique circumstances faced by those in the defence arena.

With their skill and determination they have proven themselves time and time again; from microwave amplifiers to on-the-move satellite terminals, EMS has designed, built, installed and maintained effective systems beyond count. They have built such a reputation that, contractors and integrators worldwide count on EM Solutions to deliver reliable and robust communications systems to defence personnel.

As the world marvels at the advancements in technology over the last few decades, the EMS team fondly recall their challenging but rewarding projects and proudly stand by their numerous world-first achievements in support of defence.

Amplifier Capabilities

Peter Bradley, EM Solutions’ Chief Engineer and an original founder, designed one of the first ever Ku-band solid state power amplifiers (SSPAs) for Australian company Codan over 30 years ago.  These amplifiers are critical subsystems that ensure a signal is transmitted at high enough power levels to reach its destination.

Ever since that initial design came to fruition, EM Solutions has continued to revise and improve the design and manufacture of a series of SSPAs, many of which were at the forefront of the technology including:

  • 50W 5GHz for Thomson CSF circa 1984
  • 100W Ku-band for a leading Australian Broadcaster circa 1992 based on hemispherical power combiner
  • 2kW X-band for an Australian Defence radar project circa 1995 using innovative combining technology of lower power modules in a system that is still manufactured today
  • X-Band amplifiers up to 120W for the Australian Army, circa 1994 – products that are still in operation today and maintained by EM Solutions
  • Ka-Band amplifier up to 80W in power – the company’s primary focus in recent years which has included supply of systems for land, maritime and aero application to numerous Tier 1 defence primes
  • Release of the new Diamond Series of Ka-Band Satcom amplifiers and converters in 2015 – the first products based on new GaN component technology at Ka band in the SATCOM industry
  • Over the years the team has also created various other products at frequencies around 2GHz, 8GHz, 12GHz, 20GHz.
  • More recently the team have also investigated and added linearisers and generalised compact multi way SSPAs to their list of achievements.

Through listening, understanding, partnering, experimenting and analyzing challenges and opportunities, the EM Solutions team have developed wide-ranging capabilities covering RF design for any combination of modules from 2 GHz to 200 GHz using microstrip, waveguide, parallel plate or suspended substrate with power levels from 1W up to 5kW.

The EM Solutions team is also exploring heat flow analysis and various heat sink types. Stay tuned because they’re bound to deliver another ‘first’ in these fields!

Design Capability - Satcom on the Move Terminals

Inspired by their achievements with industry-leading amplifiers, the EMS team were keen to focus energy on solving one of defence’s biggest communications issues – overcoming inefficiencies in communicating with teams in distant, rough terrains and wild seas.

Led by John Logan, EM Solutions’ Program Manager, the team initially developed the Ka-band comms-on-the-move (COTM) terminal for the Australian Defence Forces to provide broadband communications from a moving vehicle, such as the Bushmaster PMV or a ship, to any other satellite ground terminal operating in the same frequency band with a compatible modem.

The device tracks a military satellite operating in Ka-band frequencies and uses monopulse techniques to track the satellite with the utmost accuracy via its beacon signal. The terminal has completed Phase 2 of the defence WGS satellite constellation testing regime, and has been certified for operation on the Optus-C1 satellite where it supported  an up-link (transmit) data rate of 2Mbps, and a down-link (receive) data rate of 8Mbps.

In July 2014 EM Solutions was awarded a contract to design and supply a number of wideband COTM terminals to the Australian Defence Force (ADF), to be trialled on a Royal Australian Naval vessel.  The contract is project managed by the Defence Science Technology Organisation (DSTO).  An operating system ready for testing and certification is due in August 2015 and field demonstrations are scheduled with the Australian Navy in early 2016.

As part of the ADF Wideband Satcom COTM terminal project, EMS will use its existing monopulse tracking technology, and design an antenna feed that covers multiple frequency bands from multiple satellites, while maintaining the same tracking accuracy as previous systems.

These COTM terminals have not just been utilised by ADF, in fact since their successful testing phase they have been sought after and utilised in a number of other areas:

  • EMS has supplied Ka-band COTM terminals to a Japanese customer for use in civil defence and disaster recovery.  EMS is also currently under contract for a long-term development of a maritime terminal that will be used on small research vessels as well as on autonomous surface vessels.
  • EMS is under contract with a Tier 1 European Defence Integrator to provide an X-Band Land COTM system.

Engineering & Manufacturing Support

The EMS team is a passionate bunch and always open to new challenges and opportunities. They are equally excited about investigating new technologies as they are about helping clients overcome their challenges with innovative solutions. Any puzzle that needs solving is something the EMS team would love to sink their teeth into.

Not only are they keen to investigate; they are renowned for delivering solutions that stand the test of time. In fact there are EMS built RF units that have been in service for over 15 years! These same baseline designs are in use today because they just work so well.

With a long and growing list of ‘firsts’ the EM Solutions team takes pride in their achievements but remain thirsty for new and exciting challenges. We may not yet know what the next 30 years will bring but we expect nothing less than passionate, dedicated and ground breaking work from communications catalysts.

About the Author

Gary Shmith

Gary Shmith

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