[Satnews] The first fully funded Air Force modernization enterprise terminal (MET) outside the U.S. is now operational at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar.
The terminal, which cost $15 million, provides secure communication capabilities including voice, video and data services, linking service members in the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility with military leaders around the world. The system also features anti-jamming software and uses the most current technology, said Vernon Jones, the 379th Expeditionary Communications Squadron plans and programs manager.
“It provides tremendous capability and reliability to the warfighter,” said Jones, a retired Marine Chief Warrant Officer 2.
Jones, who served more than 20 years in the Navy and Marine Corps, said he knows how important it is to communicate quickly and securely. He served in combat on three occasions and said having reliable communication is vital.
“In Iraq, we were moving from one base to another near Baghdad,” Jones said. “As we were going in, I couldn’t get any of my satellites up and locked to get vital information to the logistics people who were coming in after us. Our primary terminal was down and that left about 5,000 Marines without reliable communications.”
Jones said his Marines lost secure communications capability for two weeks and were forced to send runners in Humvees from point-to-point to deliver secure messages.
“Having been shot at, I understand the critical need for dependable communications,” he said, “and that’s what this terminal provides. It ensures the CENTCOM commander has the communication capability to get his guidance to his subordinate commanders to execute the mission,” he continued. “It also provides the assurance to the warfighter that when an extraction team or a rescue helicopter is needed, it will be there.”
The terminal is part of the Defense Department’s MET program, said Lt. Col. Carlos Alford, the 379th ECS commander. “The program’s goal is to install new terminals around the world to enable U.S. military forces to take advantage of increased data capabilities of its constellation of Ka-band wideband global communication satellites,” Alford said. “The MET will simultaneously handle both X and Ka-band signals which use WGCS. The previous Defense Satellite Communications System could only handle X-band and one WGCS satellite is equal to about 10 DSCS satellites in terms of bandwidth it provides,” he added.
The MET program will continue expanding by installing more enterprise terminals around the globe, Alford said. In 2018, Al Udeid AB will likely have a second MET set up to further increase CENTCOM’s communication capabilities. Work to install the MET began in September 2012. A few years later, on January 14, the terminal was certified to operate by the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA).
Story by Tech. Sgt. James Hodgman, 379th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs, USAF