NATO Forces Embrace an Upcoming SATURN Waveform Mandate

Lt. Col. Brian Wong, center, chief of market research for the Network Cross-Functional Team, assesses the waveform strength of several mobile ad hoc network radio signals during the Rapid Innovation Fund capstone event at Yakima Training Center, Washington, in September. (Photo courtesy of PEO C3T Public Affairs)

The impact of the SATURN (Second generation Anti-jam Tactical UHF Radio for NATO) waveform on today’s battlespace is huge and offers crucial interoperability capabilities for today’s warfighter in theater regarding mission readiness and warfighter safety. While the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) has its own set of sovereign waveforms that it uses, SATURN provides interoperability with our allies, which is key to ensuring NATO’s success. As the SATURN waveform continues to become a key standard communication waveform for militaries around the world, keeping up with corresponding mandates for the technology is crucial.

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To learn more about an upcoming mandate from NATO around the SATURN waveform and what governing bodies are enacting to keep NATO-affiliated warfighters safe and prepared, The Modern Battlespace spoke with Joseph Graf, a fellow at Collins Aerospace. Graf is also part of the NATO Line of Sight Capability Area Team (LOS CAT), which essentially oversees all tactical LOS waveforms for VHF and UHF frequencies. NATO LOS CAT is a subdivision of the NATO Consultation, Command and Control Agency (NC3A), an agency with around 800 staff responsible for scientific research, development and experimentation, technical project management and acquisition support for NATO procurement programs.

In our discussion, Graf explained the upcoming mandate to The Modern Battlespace editorial team as follows:

“Today, SATURN Edition 3 (STANAG 4372) radios are widely fielded across European NATO nations. Even so, the waveform is slated to go into official service in the near future. The mandate is for SATURN to be within the Minimum Military Requirements (MMR) defined for NATO nations for future procurements. SATURN Edition 4 is in the process of being ratified, but that should not impact the currently fielded radios as there has been an effort to ensure the capabilities provided in the version of Edition 3 being fielded meet required performance and interoperability capabilities.”

Adding more background on the current efforts to modernize SATURN, Graf added that in the transition from SATURN Edition 3 to Edition 4, the functionality won’t change, but the previously optional functions on Edition 3 will become mandatory with Edition 4 to ensure continued interoperability for crypto modernization. This mandate secures SATURN’s ability to be integrated across all NATO nations, enabling reliable and interoperable communication in NATO missions.

What does this mean for the warfighter? According to Graf, SATURN is a classified Fast Frequency Hopping electronic counter-countermeasure (ECCM) Mode for UHF Radio. This means there are interoperable modes defined so that different nations can ensure sovereignty of their own tactical communications, while also being able to exchange appropriate information with fellow NATO and coalition nations.

Continuing to modernize waveforms like SATURN and adapt to warfighter needs is important in strengthening allied partnerships like NATO. We look forward to seeing how the waveform continues to evolve and how governing bodies work towards standardizing its use.