Circuit check


Tobyhanna begins satellite system support

by Anthony Ricchiazzi

TOBYHANNA ARMY DEPOT, Pa. – Tobyhanna’s military strategic tactical relay facilities have started production to support one of the world’s most sophisticated satellite-communications systems.

MILSTAR provides direct SATCOM support to mobile U.S. forces that’s autonomous, worldwide, highly jam-resistant and secure.

Electronics mechanic prepares MILSTAR circuit cards for testing Chet Laniewski, an electronics mechanic in Tobyhanna Army Depot's Tactical MILSTAR Facilities Division, prepares MILSTAR circuit cards for testing on L393 automatic test equipment. Laniewski can test circuit cards from different MILSTAR components with the L393.

"The system provides global voice, data and imagery transmissions, including global videoteleconferencing," said Dominic Cusatis, chief of the Tactical MILSTAR Facilities Division here.

A difference between MILSTAR and other SATCOM systems is that MILSTAR employs a series of satellites so users can communicate without the need for relaying ground stations.

"MILSTAR is fiber-optics driven," says John Martz, an electronics-integrated-systems mechanic. "Fiber-optics use laser light instead of electricity; it can carry much more data than a conventional large copper cable in a glass fiber about nine microns in diameter [a human hair is 100 microns in diameter]. Fiber-optics transmissions are much faster than copper and very reliable."

That combination of direct satellite links and fiber-optics means there’s no perceptible delay in transmission, unlike older SATCOM systems. A user in the United States can communicate with another user on the other side of the planet nearly instantaneously. "There is a measurable delay," Martz said, "but it’s in microseconds."

Tobyhanna is providing repair, modification and test support for MILSTAR terminals located worldwide. "There are four terminal systems – ground, airborne, shipborne and building mounted; Tobyhanna is repairing, overhauling and testing components for all of them," Cusatis explained. "We’re also installing the two types of MILSTAR shelters – the extremely-high-frequency terminal and the S-280 tactical terminal, which is used in the field in an operational status and as hot mockups."

"I feel strongly that MILSTAR could be SATCOM’s future," Cusatis said. "Its advantages and high visibility will make it a large part of the future Tobyhanna SATCOM Directorate workload."

Mr. Ricchiazzi is a public-affairs specialist with Tobyhanna’s public-affairs office.


Defense Department awards Iridium contract

by Gerry Gilmore

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Defense Department awarded a two-year, $72 million contract Dec. 6, 2000, to a Maryland firm for unlimited use of its global, satellite-based, secure telephone network.

The contract was awarded through the Defense Information Systems Agency to Iridium Satellite LLC (IS) of Arnold, Md., which will contract with the Boeing Co. to operate and maintain the system’s 73 satellites.

According to Dave Oliver, principal deputy undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, the contract will give DoD increased communications ability around the globe and a conduit to private-sector innovation.

Under the contract, DoD will pay a $3 million monthly service fee for unlimited airtime for 20,000 government users over the Iridium satellite network. Contract options, if exercised, could increase the contract value to $252 million and extend the contract period to 2007.

"Iridium will not only add to our existing capability, it will provide a commercial alternative to our purely military systems," Oliver said. "This may enable real civil-military dual use, keep us closer to the leading edge of technology and provide a real alternative for the future."

The system offers state-of-the-art satellite-communications service to any open area in the world. Iridium features on-satellite signal processing and intersatellite crosslinks, allowing satellite-mode service. Iridium also provides mobile, cryptographically secure telephone services to small handsets anywhere in the world, North Pole to South Pole, 24 hours a day, officials said. They noted the system and its DoD-specified enhancements will provide hand-held phone service not currently available.

Officials said the system can improve the capabilities of special forces operations, combat search-and-rescue activities, and polar communications. It also can enhance DoD’s mobile SATCOM requirements, they added.

Motorola designed, built and operated the $5.5 billion Iridium system. The system went into operation in November 1998, and DoD used some 800 of its first-generation phones. The Motorola-owned unit, Iridium LLC, was charging some of its 60,000 customers up to $5 a minute for calls when it went bankrupt in August 1999. Iridium Satellite LLC recently bought the bankrupt company’s assets.

Iridium Satellite LLC purchased the operating assets of Iridium LLC and its existing subsidiaries, pursuant to a Nov. 22, 2000, order of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York. Under the agreement, Iridium Satellite LLC bought all the existing assets of Iridium LLC, including its constellation of low-orbiting satellites and its satellite-control network, and will have Boeing operate the system.

Oliver remarked that subsequent advances in technology, an expanded customer base and savings in start-up costs enables the new owner to provide commercial service for about 80 cents a minute, while the Pentagon will pay 10 to 30 cents a minute. He said company officials estimate they will "break even" with 40,000 more customers and expect to service 250,000 within five years.

The original Iridium handset is boxy and bulky, Oliver said. An improved model by Motorola, he continued, is about twice the size of a typical cell phone and has a call-reliability rate of 95 percent. Its special encryption sleeve ensures secure communications, he added.

Motorola will continue to supply DoD with handsets and parts for the time being.

The U.S. military will use its enhanced mobile-satellite-services gateway system at Wahiawa, Hawaii, to provide DoD Iridium users with direct-dial connection to the Defense Information Services Network and to public-switched telephone networks, officials said.

Also slated for early in 2001, Iridium will offer a classified capability. Classified service won’t only be provided for users already registered to the DoD gateway, but it’ll also be extended to new users from DoD, other federal agencies and selected allied governments.

Mr. Gilmore works for American Forces Press Service. Other information for this article was contributed by Defense Department public affairs.

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Nabors: computer contract ‘delivers on commitment’ to small businesses

by Stephen Larsen

FORT MONMOUTH, N.J. – Communications-Electronics Command awarded the maxi-minis and database peripherals contract Oct. 24, 2000, to PCC Technology Group of East Brunswick, N.J., an 8 (a), disadvantaged, women-owned small business. The contract, with two base years and three one-year options, is potentially valued at $4.8 million.

The sole-source, indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity contract, open to all Defense Department and other federal agencies, offers workgroup and departmental laser printers; high-speed line printers; scanners; high-security paper shredders; services; and ancillary/consumable items.

At a signing ceremony here Dec. 11, 2000, MG Robert Nabors, commander of CECOM and Fort Monmouth, commended CECOM’s systems-management center and its small-computer program office, CECOM’s acquisition center and CECOM’s Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization Office for working together to award the contract to a small, disadvantaged business. "What this does is deliver on a commitment," said Nabors. "I think we (CECOM) have a strong track record in this area."

Indeed, two previous contracts with ceilings of more than $300 million each were awarded by CECOM in 2000 to women-owned small businesses. In fiscal year 2000, CECOM spent more than $750 million in small-business subcontracts, with more than $75 million of that money going to small businesses in New Jersey and more than $50 million of that going to small businesses in Monmouth County.

"Sixty-five percent of innovation comes from small-business activities," said Nabors citing businesses such as Apple and Microsoft, which he said "started small and grew into powerhouses, the economic engines of the world."

Peter Capozzoli, deputy chief of CECOM’s SADBUO, agreed that it’s "good business" to help small businesses develop and grow competitive. "A lot of people think it (the small and disadvantaged business program) is a social program," said Capozzoli. "It’s not. It’s all about developing the industrial base. If we use and develop these underutilized assets, we get the best bang for the buck, because everyone remains competitive."

Capozzoli said PCC Technology Group qualifies as 8 (a), small disadvantaged, women-owned business. He said a small disadvantaged business is defined as a small business that is at least 51 percent-owned by one or more individuals who are economically disadvantaged and who are members of a federally-recognized socially disadvantaged group. A women-owned small business is defined as a small business that is 51 percent-owned by one or more women. An 8(a) contractor is defined as a small disadvantaged business that has submitted an acceptable and approved business plan to the Small Business Administration under the rules of Section 8(a) of the Small Business Act. "They must show economic disadvantage, technical expertise and a high potential for success," said Capozzoli.

For more information, or to place an order on the maxi-minis and database-peripherals contract, click on the SCP website,, or call SCP project leader Brian Rieth at DSN 987-6589 or (732) 427-6589.

Mr. Larsen works at CECOM’s systems-management center.

General officer transitions

BG Jan Hicks getting promoted

NOW A BRIGADIER GENERAL COL Jan Hicks, Pacific Command’s J-6 and the Signal Center’s former chief of staff, was frocked as a brigadier general in a ceremony Dec. 11, 2000. Pacific Command’s commander-in-chief, Adm. Dennis Blair, and Hicks’ daughter Jennifer pinned on her stars. Photo by Shirley Atkin


Of interest

New division completes tests, begins full production

by Anthony Ricchiazzi

TOBYHANNA ARMY DEPOT, Pa. – First-article tests are complete for the Night-Vision/Electro-Optics Division here and all facilities are now on-line for workload.

The division, part of the Avionics-Intelligence Electronics Warfare Directorate, began partial production last June of 43 systems for weapons systems ranging from the M1 Abrams tank and M2 Bradley Fighting Vehicle to rocket launchers and M-16 rifles.

Systems include night-vision scopes and goggles, image-intensifier tubes and vehicle driver and commander viewers.

optics equipment testing Mike Rutherford, an optical instrument repairer in Tobyhanna Army Depot's Night Vision/Electro Optics Division, sets up modular universal laser equipment to conduct tests such as accuracy and energy level.

"We’ve now begun production in our laser facilities, repairing and testing laser range-finders and designators for weapons systems such as the M-1 and M-60 tanks, including the ground/vehicle lightweight laser generators, modular universal laser equipment and laser target designators," said Stan Fisher, electronics mechanic leader. "We also completed a laser test range near the SATCOM building [Satellite Communications Systems Directorate]."

The new workload is part of the 1995 Base Closure and Realignment transition, transferring from McClellan AFB, Calif.

There are three main laser facilities. All are Class 10,000 clean rooms, meaning the air is kept free of dust and other contaminants down to .5 micron size to less than 10,000 particles per cubic foot of air space. (A human hair is about 100 microns in diameter.) Other optics systems, such as scopes for rifles and rocket launchers, are also repaired and tested in a Class 100,000 clean room.

Mr. Ricchiazzi is a public-affairs specialist with Tobyhanna’s public-affairs office.

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‘Odyssey’ of Signaleer published

The autobiography of former Signal officer Claude Ramsey was recently published.

Ramsey was a cryptography officer (Signal intelligence) during World War II. He handled the "eyes only" messages for GEN Douglas MacArthur.

The book is entitled From Generals to Gorillas: the Odyssey of Claude Ramsey and was published by Mountain State Press, a non-profit press dedicated to promoting West Virginia authors and subject matter about Appalachia, according to Lisa Contreras, executive assistant for the Mountain State Press board.

Ramsey was born in Ramsey, Fayette County, West Virginia. He graduated from the University of Charleston in 1938 and worked as a journalist with Associated Press and United Press. At United Press, he met Walter Cronkite as a young man. The book also contains glimpses of television personality Betty White, who wrote the forward; John Nance Garner as an elder statesman; Lyndon Baines Johnson as a young, eager congressman; Lloyd Bentsen as a Texas county judge; the Great Depression; and Ziz, a 400-pound gorilla in Rwanda. Ramsey spent some 25 years building the country’s largest foundation in veterinary medicine after his journalism career.

The book sells for $12.95 plus $2.95 shipping from Mountain State Press, University of Charleston, 2300 MacCorkle Ave. SE, Charleston, WV 25304. The book is also available from and other bookstores and retailers.

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Enlisted Soldier’s Guide published

The fifth edition of Enlisted Soldier’s Guide was recently printed and is available from Stackpole Books.

The book, written by CSM (Retired) Robert Rush, contains information for the first-term soldier, such as details on Army service, advancement, pay, benefits, training and career options. Also included are Army policies, the enlisted training system, contemporary issues, individual professional development, assignments, promotions, uniforms and personal affairs.

This edition also includes a 16-page color insert on medals and badges, according to Stackpole Books’ managing editor Amy Cooper.

The book sells for $13.95 and is available in bookstores or directly from Stackpole Books, 1-800-732-3669, email

Acronym QuickScan
CECOM – Communications-Electronics Command
DoD – Department of Defense
MILSTAR – military strategic tactical relay
SADBUO – Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization Office
SATCOM – satellite communications
SCP – small-computer program

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