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CTech Helicopter SaTCoM Systems Battlefield Advantage Breakthrough

Issue 102

Since the early 1900s helicopters have come in a variety of forms and they have become an integral part of daily operations in the aviation industry, both in civilian and military fields. Immediately after the Second World War, we can see an immediate upswing the use of helicopters, especially for civic purposes.

Helicopters, which are an integral part of the Turkish Armed Forces, were initially imported from foreign countries. Now, Turkey aims to produce domestic and national helicopters with ATAK-2 as part of the process that started with T129 ATAK and continues with T625 GÖKBEY.

Along with helicopters come numerous unique challenges. The intense workload of the pilot, the effects of the wind, maintenance problems, the difficulties caused by ground effect, meteorological conditions (fog, sun glare, etc.) can be counted among these. Another factor that can be added to these problems is that a helicopter's communication capability is very limited. It is a significant problem that HF radio systems, which are frequently used in helicopters, cannot provide continuous communication due to both the short-range of HF and geographical obstacles. The same problems also apply to Line-of-Sight systems. Despite these difficulties, providing uninterrupted communication with a high data rate is a crucial function that will primarily save the lives of helicopter pilots and increase the success rate of planned operations.

Until recently, satellite communication (SatCom) systems were not included among the various communication methods mentioned above. A few companies and countries were interested in this field, but none of the products have managed to achieve commercial success. There are several reasons why satellite communication systems are not used on helicopters. First, the rotor blades constantly cut and disrupt the satellite feed and there are no suitable mounting points for SatCom antennas on helicopters. Moreover, the system must work under extreme conditions, especially in military helicopters. 

A satellite communication system consists of 3 main elements: a helicopter satellite antenna and modem system, the satellite itself, and a ground antenna and modem system that receives the data sent from helicopter to the satellite and transmits it to the user or command control center. In particular, the systems used in helicopters should be as small as possible, resistant to harsh environmental conditions, and have low power consumption, as expected from all military systems. The satellite antenna must also be low profile and accurately follow the satellite without breaking the Line-of-Sight (LoS), even while the helicopter is maneuvering. And above all, the SatCom modem must use a particular waveform to eliminate the rotor blades' disruption. This unique waveform is the most important reason why satellite communication systems have not been used in this field until today.

CTech has successfully developed military SatCom products for aerial platforms and UAVs, and continues its studies to provide solutions for helicopters. With this technology owned by only a few countries and companies in the world, our helicopters will be provided with broadband satellite communication capability. Currently, there are a limited number of applications in this area, and only a handful of Apache and Chinook helicopters are equipped with Israeli systems.

CTech has completely eliminated the disruption of the rotor blades by providing an indigenously developed solution with a unique waveform. In the tests carried out with ATAK helicopters at TAI facilities in 2020, High-Resolution images were successfully transferred from the helicopter to the command control center via the broadband satellite communication system.

When used on civilian and military helicopters such as ATAK-2, ATAK, and GÖKBEY, the newly developed CTech SatCom system will provide our helicopters with uninterrupted communication capability, which is essential for the “Network Supported Operation Command Control” and “Mission Command” concepts. In this way, continuous and flexible command control (C2), uninterrupted and broadband communication during VIP government official transportation, real-time location information & two-way video transmission, real-time monitoring & diagnosis of all the helicopter subsystems, and preparing required spare parts based on this information, support from ground units while flying with a single pilot, simulation and training with real-time data during the flight, and autonomous airworthiness can be provided and above all, a system compatible with the information-based military and state management of the future will be acquired.

Another element that should be added to these superior capabilities is interoperability. When equipped with CTech satellite communication systems, our UAVs and helicopters will be able to operate together, and land platforms can also be provided with this capability by using similar systems. Taking advantage of the wide-area observation provided by the UAVs, our helicopters will be able to perform much more effectively in the field during military operations.

With the "Helicopter Satellite Communication Systems" developed by C2Tech, the TAF will achieve a significant breakthrough in today's battlefield. Furthermore, providing strategic beyond-the-horizon satellite communication capability to Turkey in a completely secure way will be a quite substantial achievement. In this context, CTech continues to work with all its means to meet the needs of our state.