Sat-Com is one of the leading military radio manufacturers in Africa, and after cornering the Namibian market the Windhoek-based company is now looking towards international expansion as well as the development of new products and partnerships.
Sat-Com has been in the military communications market since 1999, but it began in 1991 as a designer and manufacturer of equipment for the Namibian broadcasting industry. Its foray into military radios came in response to a Namibian Defence Force (NDF) requirement. At first amplifiers and VHF man portable radios (Cheetah 1) were produced, then HF radio manufacturing began more than a decade ago.
Today Sat-Com’s main offering is software-defined radios, such as the manpack Leopard, which is in service with the Namibian Defence Force. It offers frequency-hopping communications in the HF, VHF, and UHF bands, an unusual feature in a military radio. Military radios usually operate in one band as communication requirements are usually limited. Other HF radio manufactures will only cover up to 30 or 60 MHz frequency, whereas the Leopard covers a frequency range from 1.6 MHz up to 512 MHz. The Leopard can transmit data as well as digital voice, which prevent eavesdropping, and also offers blue force tracking capabilities.
Sat-Com’s other flagship, in service with the NDF, is the Cheetah lightweight portable wideband VHF/UHF radio, which has integrated GNSS receivers. Features include fast frequency hopping (FFH), encryption, electronic counter-countermeasures (ECCM) capabilities and a data modem/texting capability. The latest Cheetah software-defined radio features data transmission for text and file transfer and blue force tracking capability.
With these two radios, Sat-Com covers the entire range of military requirements, including ground, air and naval communications. “Carrying one radio which can communicate to all other services enables seamless operation for the modern soldier,” Sat-Com said.
Another important product is the Afracal range of amplifiers that cover HF, VHF/UHF and dual (HF, VHF and UHF) frequencies. They range in power from 75 to 125 Watt for multiband, and 1kW for HF. Research and development of the new 1 kW HF amplifier (Afracal 1000) was completed in 2018 and this will be aimed at base station and naval applications. Sat-Com will also be launching a new 1 kW HF antenna tuner. In the meantime, it has made a number of improvements to its existing products.
With an eye towards the future, Sat-Com has identified a number of new development needs and growth possibilities for a higher-powered HF manpack radio, low power lightweight handheld military software defined radio, and technology transfer projects for international customers in the form of semi-knock down (SKD), complete knock-down (CKD) and complete intellectual property transfer.
Sat-Com can help customers develop or co-develop their own communications products and supply the necessary hardware and software – technology transfer and co-development/production options are available.
After dominating the Namibian military communications market, Sat-Com has been expanding its presence internationally, taking part in trade shows such as Africa Aerospace and Defence (AAD), hosting foreign delegations holding demonstrations in potential customer countries and sending marketing and communication professionals across the world.
The company has recently been receiving more international orders, mostly from Africa and the Far East, with around half of its production going to the Namibian market and half to export. It envisions the international market growing, with increasing demand for modern radio communications replacing old outdated inventory. Sat-Com recently had three Africa tenders come its way and another three tenders from the Far East.
For some countries it is hard to believe that Sat-Com produces the ratios in their own manufacturing plant starting from the aluminium billet to the end product at extremely competitive prices, Sat-Com said. Requiring only one radio to communicate from ground to air is unique, whereas the competitors need three radios to do the same. Marketing and Sales Coordinator Adél Oosthuizen emphasised that the team is hard at work to bring across the uniqueness and capabilities of Sat-Com and its products and services.
Sat-Com does not just provide radios; its product range comprises two dozen items, including portable antennas, external speakers, a vehicle power station, repeater station charger, base station charger, antenna switch, battery chargers etc.
Communications solutions offered by the company include a wide network system, which links secure military radio networks together, base stations (Leopard /Cheetah radios and Afracal amplifiers), and vehicular stations (Leopard with Afracal amplifier). Sat-Com can also assist users to integrate their existing radio networks and equipment with the Sat-Com products. The company said it believes its products offer value for money, providing the right balance between cost, reliability and performance.
The company can also assist customers with the design of their VHF network, including radio links, repeaters and base stations and integrate radio networks with other networks such as cellular and public switched telephone networks (PSTN).
Sat-Com offers comprehensive training for signals, field technicians and operators at the Sat-Com factory or at customer’s premises.
Although 95% of Sat-Com’s business is focussed on military communications, it has a commercial side: it is a reseller of commercial communication brands and systems. It provides communication and system solutions for municipalities, police, border patrol and other security and public infrastructure sectors. The company has a large stock holding of spares, accessories and installation material like coax cable, connecters, adaptors and electronic components. Sat-Com also designs and installs V-SAT services or terrestrial data networks.
Sat-Com has a well-equipped factory covering 3 500 square metres, featuring computer-aided design, milling, laser cutting, bending and powder coating facilities. Its in-house capability extends from product concept to electrical and mechanical design to circuit board layout, pick and place, to product testing. Sat-Com has more than 25 years of radio engineering expertise. Its laboratories cover environmental testing as Sat-Com radios are certified to military standards (MIL-STD 810G). Raw materials such as solid aluminium blocks, loose components, blank printed circuit boards, wires and screws enter the building and the complete operational radio leaves a few days later. The factory can produce approximately 1 200 radios per year, but capacity is easily upgradable depending on production needs.