Army Designs System to Keep Paratroopers Connected In-Flight

U.S. Army paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne Division descend to the ground after jumping out of a C-17 Globemaster III aircraft, over drop zone Sicily during Joint Operations Access Exercise (JOAX) at Ft. Bragg, N.C., on Sept. 10, 2011.  JOAX is a one-week exercise to prepare the Air Force and the Army to respond to worldwide crises and contingencies.  U.S. Air Force photo/A1C James Richardson (RELEASED)The Army has developed an airborne satellite system that can be loaded onto an Air Force C-17 cargo aircraft that allows paratroopers to communicate with voice, video and data while flying to the mission, Army officials said.

Army leaders hope to deploy the system called Enroute Mission Command Capability, or EMC 2, by 2017.

“EMC 2 brings high speed data to the upper echelon of the Global Response Force. It brings a number of services with it including voice, video, data, teleconferencing, chat and mission command implications,” said Lt. Col. Joel Babbitt, product manager for WIN-T.

The mobile, airborne satellite network is a new extension of the Army’s Warfighter Information Network-Tactical, or WIN-T – a ground-based, high-speed radio and satcom network allowing commanders to chat, view digital maps and exchange data between forward bases and while on-the-move in vehicles.

The technology is initially slated for the Global Response Force, a brigade-strong rapidly deployable unit designed to reach anywhere in the world within 96 hours of being notified. The unit, which has been used in many conflicts to include the first Gulf War in 1991 and other conflicts since, consists of a portion of the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division.

“This allows them to do dynamic planning while they are in route to an objective,” Babbitt said.

“They get on a plane and fly somewhere between 12 to 20 hours to get to an objective. During that time they have very little data. The transformation we are making is that they will be able to have voice communications along with huge amounts of data,” Babbitt explained.

EMC 2 brings the capability into the cargo section of a C-17 using commercial satellite connections, bringing paratroopers on the move the ability to monitor developments while in transit.

“C-17s today have some limited data capability for the pilots and air command, including navigation and pilot communications back to air operations center,” Babbitt said.  “This brings high-speed data to the paratroopers in the cargo section of the plane. The amount of data required for mission command exceeds what the pilots have available to them.”

The EMC 2 technology uses modified Air Force C-17s engineered to operate with AN/PRC-152 wideband networking radio, commercial satellites and the ANW2 waveform.

Babbitt said it is possible the EMC 2 technology will be extended to other airborne units in the Army.

— Kris Osborn can be reached at

About the Author

Kris Osborn
Kris Osborn is the managing editor of Scout Warrior.
  • @varnal1

    Gotta to luv the military - is this not the same Satellite services provided on some airlines? Yeah, I know its not mil-spec but it is basically the same thing.

    • blight_asdf

      It’s a bundled system, likely including Ku-band satellite uplink (see GoGo inflight internet) /and/ the planning software.

    • CTOCS77

      I guarantee you that it costs a crap ton more than the commercial version.

    • @GreensboroVet

      So. I wish I had it when I was assigned to 82 Duce. Still remember sitting on the ground is Louisiana waiting for Clinton to decide if were going to deploy to Bosnia. Thank GOD for the B2. AIRBORNE!!!!

  • rufus3698

    Uh, if you’re being deployed someplace inside of a battle zone, doesn’t this tip off any enemy with elint capabilities where you are and where you’re heading?

    • Durandal

      Well, your an enemy happens to have a sat dish pointed in the right area of the sky, they (and everyone in a few hundred miles) will notice that there is an encrypted signal coming from a certain satellite. That satellite and a few dozen others. Constantly. So unless they are able to get past the encryption… they dont see anything unusual, as most communication satellites encrypt and compress info anyway. If they DO get past the encryption… then there is alot of hurt to go around.

    • A. Nonymous

      Who needs ELINT? A C-17 (or C-130) sticks out on radar like a sore thumb.

  • mpower6428

    They kind of lost me here…. how does this compete with an I-phone…?

    • Durandal

      By being jam resistant, not relying on the local network infrastructure (which can be either monitored or not even present), and actually working while in the air. Also much more secure.

    • blight_asdf

      Ever tried mission planning on an iPhone? Have you tried using an iPhone on an aircraft well outside of cell phone reception?

  • Dave Barnes

    Other than in a training exercise, when was the last time US Army paratroopers jumped en masse into battle?

    • JohnnyRanger

      OIF. A brigade jumped into Northern Iraq / Kurdistan. A reinforced company of Rangers jumped into Afghanistan a few years earlier. Not to mention Just Cause and Urgent Fury in the ’80s and ’90s.

    • Josh

      82nd also had their ready brigade jump into Hati after the earthquake to begin recovery operations since it was unknown if the airfields where useable.

  • blight_asdfljsadf

    “Why does the military have fighter jets? Is this not the same as a commercial aircraft”

  • oblat

    96 hours to get in. 10 years and 100,000 casualties later to get out.

  • donbacon

    Trying to update the lost art of paratrooping in combat.

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