MA-C MiniPOD offers V/UHF detection and geolocation capabilities
VStar Systems expects to complete development of its new MA-C MiniPOD airborne Communications Intelligence (COMINT) product by early 2019 with the system in final development, the company has told MONS.
The MA-C MiniPOD is a podded version of the company’s MA-C Signals Intelligence (SIGINT) sensor. Intended to equip airborne platforms such as Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), the MA-C MiniPOD is designed to equip an underwing hardpoint, imposing a weight penalty of 40 pounds (20 kilograms). The firm told the author that it has the capacity to detect and geo-locate Radio Frequency (RF) emissions from Very High Frequency (VHF) and Ultra High Frequency (UHF) communications systems across a waveband of 30 megahertz/MHz to three gigahertz/GHz. VStar Systems continued that the MA-C MiniPOD has the residual capability to detect High Frequency RF emissions across a three megahertz to 30MHz range, although adding that antennae separation constraints vis-à-vis the physical size of the MA-C MiniPOD prevents the geolocation of such emissions. That said, the written statement from VStar Systems continued that simultaneous detection and geolocation of both VHF and UHF emissions with the MA-C MiniPOD is possible.
Regarding the sharing of its COMINT, the company articulated that this can be achieved via an aircraft’s standard V/UHF communications suite using an IP (Internet Protocol) interface, although a dedicated communications system to allow the pod to share its information with other users in the air and on the ground can be added at the customer’s request. Furthermore, the MA-C MiniPOD is fully self-contained “and is designed to be integrated onto a variety of platforms quickly.” The only interfaces required by the pod to connect it to the aircraft include a connection to the aircraft’s power supply, and the IP interface discussed above. In terms of performance, VStar Systems noted that the MA-C MiniPOD has an RF detection range of circa 86.8 nautical miles (161 kilometres) when flying at an altitude of 5000 feet (1524 metres). The development of the MA-C MiniPOD represents one of the latest developments in the growing trend of equipping UAVs with COMINT capabilities, as illustrated by the news in 2017 that the British Army’s Thales WK-450 WATCHKEEPER UAVs will be equipped with QinetiQ’s ASX COMINT payload.