DataPath acquisition gives Rockwell Collins SATCOM on the move expertise

By John McHale

LONDON—Winning future satellite communications (SATCOM) on the move programs from the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) was the major goal behind the Rockwell Collins purchase of DataPath in Duluth, Ga., this summer.

When Rockwell Collins plans for an acquisition it is to fill a gap in technology or revenue, not just to expand market share, says Al Caslavka, vice president and general manager, Command, Control, Communication, and Intelligence Solutions (C3I) Solutions for Rockwell Collins. DataPath had plenty of synergy with Rockwell Collins technology and “virtually no overlap,” Caslavka says.

Caslavka says the combination of DataPath’s multi-band satellite terminals technology combined with Rockwell Collins experience in information assurance and military communications should create opportunities for military SATCOM on the move applications.

They would provide the broadband expertise to move that information and Rockwell’s cryptographic solutions would ensure the information is secure as it moves across the network, Caslavka says.

Their experience in commercial satellite communications is also crucial, Caslavka says. The military had to rely heavily on commercial satellites during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, because the military satellites just did not have enough bandwidth, he explains. This trend will continue, he adds

Even though the T-SAT (Transformational Satellite Communications) program was canceled the DOD still needs to develop SATCOM on the move technology and the purchase of DataPath gives Rockwell Collins an edge at participating in the DOD’s “transformational communications roadmap,” Caslavka says.

The DataPath acquisition was also a bargain in tough economic times. “We were also able to acquire them at a discount to total sales,” Caslavka says. “Their total sales were about $250 million and we bought them at $130 million.” Rockwell Collins did about $5 billion in revenue last year, he adds.

Caslavka made his comments during the September Defense Systems and Equipment International Exhibition—DSEi 2009 -- in London. At DSEi Rockwell Collins officials also made the first contract resulting from the DataPath acquisition.

The Brazil Ministry of Defense chose the Suitcase CCT120 quad-band satellite communication (SATCOM) terminals from Satellite Systems, the DataPath subsidiary based in Sweden

“Our SWE-DISH Suitcase CCT120 was chosen due to its man-pack size and proven ability to withstand the tough weather conditions in the region, including a high humidity environment,” Caslavka says. The U.S. Secret Service is also using SATCOM terminals from SWE-DISH, he adds.

The Suitcase CCT120 supports Ku, Ka, X and C band communications, and recently received XTAR, Skynet, and U.S. Federal Communication Commission approvals.

The satellite terminals feature a 1.2-meter antenna and CommuniCase Technology (CCT) based on a common modular architecture that enables users to easily switch out and plug in standard modems, amplifiers, and other transmission and auxiliary components. With the CCT modules available today, more than 450 different configurations are possible. This enables a cost-effective means of providing operational flexibility and creates efficiencies in managing spare parts, Rockwell Collins officials say.

While DataPath will be absorbed into Rockwell Collins, SWE-DISH will retain its original branding, Caslavka says. The DataPath products will fall under Caslavka’s C3I Solutions division, which covers satellite and other strategic communication, electronic warfare, and information assurance technology, he adds.

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