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On the crest of a wave

SCOTPatrol next-generation naval satellite communications terminal

The SCOT terminals family welcomed a new member with the launch of SCOTPatrol. This next-generation naval satellite communications terminal is lighter and lower maintenance, making it ideal for smaller ships such as Offshore Patrol Vessels.

Locking onto a satellite that’s 36,000 kilometres away is no mean feat – particularly in a Sea State 7. Designed to eliminate ship motion in the most severe of seas, SCOTPatrol terminals are asked to do just that, a now-standard task of the product family whose origins stretch back nearly four decades.

“It was a very elegant design from the start,” says Keith Murray, Naval Terminals Product Manager at Airbus Defence and Space in Portsmouth, who explains that the technology behind this is the terminal’s balanced three-axis stabilised platform. As opposed to two-axis systems, the SCOT design avoids the ‘keyhole effect’ – a ‘blind’ region which occurs when the satellite passes directly overhead – and allows the antenna to remain accurately pointed at the satellite, maintaining uninterrupted naval operational communications. The result is “full hemispherical coverage, no matter the geographical position or sea condition,” says Keith.

A 24/7 link

SCOTPatrol does, however, offer many new features compared with earlier products. This system was developed primarily for vessels carrying out less militarised missions, such as offshore patrol, fishing protection, border security and drugs enforcement. “It’s aimed at support vessels and small corvettes, whose superstructure is not as strong and unable to take heavy equipment without modification,” Keith explains.

SCOTPatrol next-generation naval satellite communications terminal

SCOTPatrol is the lightest ever naval satcom terminal of its type, weighing in at 90 kg including the radome, significantly less than the 275 kg of previous generations. This reduction has been mostly achieved through its new carbon fibre design, developed though a collaboration with Norwich-based partner CFT (Carbon Fibre Technologies). “This material allows more organic shapes, which control stress more easily and allow the number of other components, for example bearings, to be reduced. It also offers a better strength-to-weight ratio,” he points out. Strength is an important factor considering that the terminal has to withstand not only the vibrations of modern seagoing vessels, but also shocks of up to 120 G, which could be caused, for instance, by underwater explosions. 

Photo above: The SCOTPatrol antenna with (left) Ian Wilmott, Lead Mechanical Engineer, and (right) Keith Murray, Naval Terminals Product Manager, demonstrating just how light the antenna assembly is.

Other through-life benefits include lower costs, thanks to its higher bandwidths (up to 1,024 kbps in X-band) and the fact that it is designed to be a 24/7 satcom link. Keith uses a mobile phone analogy to illustrate the advantage of SCOTPatrol over Inmarsat services: “Inmarsat could be compared with ‘pay-as-you-go’ – navies have to pay for every call – while our product offers what you would call an all-inclusive monthly service.”

Installation has also been simplified with SCOTPatrol. Its below-deck component – the modem, laptop, router, antenna control unit and IF equipment – is contained within a transit case which can be quickly installed by a two-person team. “They have to strap the case onto a floor or bench surface, plug in the network, power and antenna, and it’s ready to go,” he explains. In this way, the equipment can be moved from ship to ship and then customised for individual missions, avoiding the costs of installing it in a full fleet. 

Nine lives

The first SCOTPatrol version is an X-band variant with a 0.8-metre diameter dish. Depending on uptake from customer navies, nine variants are envisaged in all, based on the X-, Ku- and military Ka-bands and dish sizes of 1.2 m, 1.0 m and 0.8 m. A dual-band version is also on the cards for the near future. The product was launched at the Offshore Patrol and Security conference in March – and was exhibited at the IMDEX and MilSatCom Asia events in May, helping the team gather information and investigate various requests for quotation. “We’re letting our customers know that the capability is there and seeing how the marketplace reacts – our belief is that there is great potential for SCOTPatrol,” Keith concludes. 

 

SCOTPatrol antenna and transit cases

Left: the SCOTPatrol antenna. Right: Transit cases containing the below-decks equipment. The upper case contains the base-band equipment (modem, router and laptop). The lower case is the antenna control unit (ACU).

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