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US DOD’s Enhanced Polar System to provide secure, jam-resistant, strategic and tactical communications to military in Arctic Region

US DOD’s Advanced Extremely High Frequency Satellite (AEHF) is a joint service satellite communications system that provides global, survivable, secure, protected, and jam-resistant communications for high priority military ground, sea, and air assets. The AEHF system provides joint, interoperable, assured connectivity for warfighters in operations in all levels of conflict–a capability not available through other planned military communication networks.


US DOD has lunched AEHF Series of satellites consisting of six satellites in geostationary orbits, three of which have been launched. When complete, the space segment will provide coverage of the surface of the Earth between latitudes of 65 degrees north and 65 degrees south. The Enhanced Polar System (EPS) represents an evolution of requirements for protected extremely high frequency (EHF) satellite communications in the North Polar Region; above 65 deg N. EPS is the next-generation SATCOM system that will replace the current Interim Polar System (IPS) and serve as a polar adjunct to the Advanced EHF system.


As the Global warming is melting the Arctic ice, and opening up new shipping trade routes and real estate, intense resource competition over an estimated $1 trillion untapped reserves of oil, natural gas and minerals has started. Russia is acting quickly to become dominating Geostrategic and Military power in the Arctic. On May 10, 2013, President Obama issued the National Strategy for the Arctic Region (National Strategy) to articulate strategic priorities to enable the United States to ”respond effectively to challenges and emerging opportunities arising from significant increases in Arctic activity due to the diminishment of sea ice and the emergence of a new Arctic environment.”


US DOD had issued a request for information for the Multi-Service Demonstration for Arctic Challenges project. This initiative, seeks to find technology-demonstration candidates from private industry, government research and development (R&D) organizations, and academia to demonstrate military technologies for Arctic operations. One of the areas identified by RFI calls for is Persistent Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance (C4ISR) capable of supporting domain awareness and information sharing in the Arctic region.



Communications is a big challenge in ArcticCommunications satellites operating in geostationary Earth orbit do not cover the area of the Arctic. Even when a link can be made, it can be prone to interruption from icing on antennas, or from disruption caused by heavy seas. The Iridium satellite constellation can supply communications services in the Arctic, but there have been recorded cases of interruptions to the service which can last several minutes. It also does not provide the broadband communication that will be needed more and more with the development of human activities in the region, posing a challenge for the coming years.


A range of projects, including the ARTES 1 ArctiCOM project, have investigated possible solutions to the Arctic communications problem. Russia also has strong territorial reasons for wanting to improve communications in the Arctic and has proposed the Arktika satellites.

EPS System

EPS will provide continuous coverage in the polar region for secure, jam-resistant, strategic and tactical communications to support peacetime, contingency, homeland defense, humanitarian assistance and wartime operations.



The system consists of two EHF communications payloads hosted on satellites operating in highly elliptical orbits, modified AEHF communications terminals, a Gateway to provide connectivity into other communication systems and the Global Information Grid (GIG) and the EPS Control and Planning Segment (CAPS) to provide telemetry and control, mission planning and cryptographic planning for the EPS payload. More information on CAPS is available at Enhanced Polar System Control and Planning Segment (EPS CAPS).


The EPS system will provide communications for military tactical and strategic forces and other users for operations above 65 deg N. Additionally, EPS provides connectivity to Combatant Commander Command and Control (C2) centers below 65 deg N. EPS characteristics include protected communications services, communications services without continuous system C2, integrated capability allowing different levels of planners to manage their resources, interconnectivity between Enhanced Polar satellites and mid-latitude users via an EPS Gateway located at a GIG PoP (Point of Presence), data rates between 75 bps and 1.28 Mbps (threshold) and an AEHF Extended Data Rate (XDR)-interoperable waveform. With the first operational availability in 2018, EPS will be an essential adjunct to the MILSATCOM mid-latitude systems.

General Characteristics

Primary Function: Protected EHF communications above 65 deg N
Payload: Interoperable with AEHF Extended Data Rate (XDR) waveform
Antennas: 1 spot beam on Gateway, 1 user spot beam, 1 user earth coverage beam
Capability: 20 channels x 64 kbps/channel each (Previous information provided by, and published with the permission of the U.S. Department of Defense, U.S. Air Force).


Northrop awarded $429m EHF XDR payload contract from USAF

The US Air Force (USAF) has awarded a $429m contract to Northrop Grumman for the delivery of extremely high-frequency extended data rate (EHF XDR) payloads for Enhanced Polar System-Recapitalization (EPS-R). Under the deal, Northrop Grumman will be responsible for delivering two payloads designed to provide highly protected communications for troops in the polar regions. The EPS-R EHF system delivers secure, anti-jam, low probability of detection / intercept communications for soldiers.


In 2013, the company supplied two payloads that were hosted on government-owned satellites to provide next-generation protected EHF communications to military users in the north polar region.  Designed to enable hosting on a separately procured satellite with other payloads, Northrop Grumman’s EPS-R payloads will help ensure continuity of protected military satellite communications in the North Polar Region.


Northrop Grumman communications systems vice-president Cyrus Dhalla said: “EPS-R provides communications services to critical national security users. “We are pleased to support the airforce as a system prime in the timely recapitalisation of the protected, anti-jam communications capabilities in the strategically important polar region.” In December 2015, Northrop Grumman also installed the EPS Control and Planning Segment (CAPS) hardware in operational sites at Clear Air Force Station, Alaska, and Schriever AFB, Colorado.


CAPS is an advanced ground system that receives telemetry and provides configuration commands, mission planning and cryptographic planning for the two EPS polar-orbiting payloads.



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