General Atomics Aeronautical Systems (GA-ASI) has awarded a contract to Hughes Network Systems for new advanced satellite communications (SATCOM) systems.

Under the Data Link Modernization (DLM) contract, the SATCOM systems will be integrated with the US Army’s MQ-1C Gray Eagle unmanned aircraft system (UAS).

The contract will include delivery of advanced, ruggedised HM400 modems, both for air and ground. The modems will be capable of integrating with the waveform technology of the US Department of Defense (DoD).

This will support the US Army’s unique mission requirements.

The modems and continuing satellite system upgrades for the US Army Gray Eagle Extended Range UAS platform will help maintain resiliency.

Hughes and Comtech Telecommunications will work together on the ground equipment and waveform technology development and manufacture.

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Hughes Defense Division vice-president and general manager Rick Lober said: “We are very excited to support GA-ASI with a modern, cost-effective and open systems architecture with the speed, flexibility and resiliency necessary to meet the next generation of mission requirements for the army and other DoD users.

“This contract reinforces the commitment of both General Atomics and Hughes to serving the US Army with enhanced communications capabilities for mission-critical unmanned platforms.”

GA-ASI’s Gray Eagle UAS is a crucial part of the US Army’s Aviation Modernization Plan.

Gray Eagle UAS features a fault-tolerant control system and a triple-redundant avionics system architecture, as well as an automatic take-off and landing system (ATLS).

According to GA-ASI, the system meets the service’s persistent reconnaissance, surveillance, and target acquisition (RSTA) and attack operations needs.

In February 2019, Hughes was awarded a contract to provide HM400 SATCOM Solution to GA-ASI for its next-generation remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) known as the MQ-9B SkyGuardian.