Lockheed Martin, which introduced the satellite network called Advanced Extremely High Frequency for defense operations, said Canada has begun a test period with multiple terminals linked to the system.
Military communications are still seen to be at a high level despite the U.S. drawdown from Afghanistan and reduced responsibilities in Iraq and other defense-related operations, including the Persian Gulf and areas near Iran, analysts said.
The U.S. Air Force has been allowing select groups to use AEHF for testing as it fields the system, but the expansion means more users could soon have access. Britain and some NATO members are known to be the next candidates likely to join the network, security industry analysts said.
A single AEHF satellite provides greater total capacity than the entire five-satellite Milstar system it will replace. It is being touted as a joint service satellite communications system that will provide survivable, global, secure, protected and jam-resistant communications for high-priority military ground, sea and air assets for U.S. forces and international partners.
A U.S.-Canada team recently communicated successfully with the AEHF-1 satellite using a variant of the SMART-T terminal from a location near Ottawa, Canada, Lockheed Martin said.
AEHF-1 is said to be the first of six spacecraft to be launched as part of the AEHF program. The first was launched in 2010, the second in May 2012 and a third is due to be launched from Florida in September.
Each aircraft is said to have a design life of up to 14 years.
In the Canadian tests, users exchanged data with USAF's fourth Space Operations Squadron located at Schriever Air Force Base, Colo.
In later exercises, U.S. personnel supported Canadian forces as they tested multiple naval multi-band IP-variant terminals to exchange data over AEHF networks.
"AEHF's protected communication capabilities are operational and have wide appeal," Mark Calassa, vice president of Protected Communications at Lockheed Martin, said.
Calassa said the event was an integrated effort that spanned countries, armed services and product lines.
"It shows our employees are delivering a complex system that works well, enhances capability and improves allied missions," he said.
The network tests are likely to go on for several months before Canada moves toward initial operational capability.
Lockheed Martin is under contract to deliver six AEHF satellites and the mission control segment.
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