Satellite Equipment

Satellite Ground Station
SGS Oakhanger Dishes
VSC 501 Satellite Station, Dharan

Vehicle Satellite Communications 501.

502 Satellite Communications system, Operation Corporate, Falklands
PET SAN site and VSC 501
JFAC, VSC 501 Deployment
Equipment and Modems
Operation VIGOUR VSC 501 deployment

The VSC 501 is a single or multi-channel full duplex satellite communication system with facilities for speech, data, and telegraph. It can provide communication links between out of area theatres and UK Headquarters. The equipment apart from the base band equipment and the antenna is permanently installed in a specially adapted hard top Land Rover. The remainder is housed and transported in a dedicated one-ton trailer. The system operates within the military frequency band. The VSC 501 fleet was divided between 30 Signals Regiment who had twelve of them, Tactical Communications Wing had seven and the Royal Marines who had two. 


Each system was called after a colour for example, Green, Amber, Fawn, Purple, and Ochre. Throughout the working life of the VSC 501, the communications equipment has been mounted in various vehicles. During the first Gulf war a 501 was installed in Armoured Fighting Vehicle 432 and provided communications for 4th and 7th Armoured Brigades on their push towards Kuwait. In later years, the Royal Marines installed both their systems into Hagland BV’s. In 1999 the Enhanced 501 (VSC 501 E) enabled the automatic tracking of satellites in their figure of eight orbit, eliminating manual intervention. 


The VSC 501 was first used in the Falklands war in 1982 and was used continuously until retired. Active service in the Balkans, Afghanistan, and Iraq amongst other locations. As the complete system can be loaded inside a Hercules, it was often used as an early entry capability as it provided a strategic capability. When originally deployed, the VSC 501 was used in tandem with a 512K Minimux to provide data services. This configuration was called the GRANBY Fit, as it was introduced during the first Gulf War’s Operation GRANBY. During Operation TELIC in Iraq in the second Gulf War, two Tactical Communications Wing detachments supporting UK Land Forces successfully used the system with a Rapid Deployment Vehicle, a dedicated support vehicle containing passport technology. One detachment was with the Joint Nuclear, Biological and Chemical regiment in the hunt for weapons of mass destruction and the other was in support of 16 Air Assault Brigade.


The 16 Air Assault Brigade detachment moved across the line of departure within hours of the war beginning, quite possibly the first RAF Unit to do so. They made 12 Tactical redeployments in support of the rapidly moving ground campaign. In addition to operational duties, the VSC 501 has been deployed on numerous exercises. These include Arctic Warfare training, Amphibious landings with the Royal Marines and being Heli-Lifted by 24 Airmobile Brigade.


VSC 501 deployments

Rapid Deployment Vehicle (RDV)

VSC 501 and RDV deployment, Operation TELIC 1,16AAB
VSC 501, Exercise Winter Deployment (RM), Norway
FFR and RDV configurations
Chinook RDV Heli-Lift evaluation, Ex Sylvian Dawn
C130, RDV off Load, Op TELIC 1
RDV & VSC 501 at Qalat Sikar Airfield, Op TELIC 1

The Rapid Deployment Vehicle (RDV) was an internally developed TCW concept, designed to fill a gap in the capability of the Unit.  During the 90s, TCW had moved away from the Land rover, Fitted For Radio (FFR), based radio systems, which had been used to support the Forward Helicopter Units (FHU) and Harrier Force during the Cold War.  However with the introduction of the VSC 501 satellite equipment the Unit was able to provide a flexible vehicular born communications platform that could be rapidly deployed and yet still support the data needs of the technology driven Command User. 


The first TCW detachment in which the 501 was utilised, was the joint forces Exercise PURPLE WARRIOR at West Freugh in Scotland in 1989. 


The next use of the equipment was Operation GRANBY, Gulf War 1.  During this operational deployment TCW detachments supported the 4th and 7th Armoured Brigades with the satellite equipment fitted 432.  FV These teams provided a small range of secure communications and data networks by using a Minimux and numerous ‘end user terminals’.  This type of deployment was commonly known as a ‘GRANBY FIT’ and became the main communications platform for the RAF/TCW until the introduction of the RAF Radio Telecommunications System (RTTS) some years later.


With the introduction of RTTS, TCW lost some of its flexibility that it once had with the FFR’s. In 1997 TCW deployed to Norway in support of 3 Commando Brigade, on Exercise PENDULUM, here the detachment was required to provide a mobile C2 in a rapidly moving environment.  TCW engineers derived a system that meant strapping a Minimux and ‘tails’ into a GS Land-rover. 


This system proved so successful that when tasked to support the Brigade in 1998 the same principle was employed.  On completion of the exercise, TCW engineers began the build and development of a prototype vehicle which had the support equipment built into it, using dedicated fittings and terminations. This vehicle known as the RDV, was approved by the Unit Commanding Officer, who developed the concept by commissioning the build of 9 RDV vehicles using Passport technology built into air conditioned WOLF land-rovers. 


The RDV was able to provide multiple secure voice systems and the data capability found in the GRANBY fits.  During this time DOB1 carried out several development exercise that included helicopter-lifting the entire capability during a fully TAC exercise.  The system was then deployed on Exercise SAIF SAREA 2 where it proved to be a highly successful platform.  This success was further endorsed when two TCW detachments provided vital communications to 16AAB and JNBCR during Operation TELIC, Gulf War 2, in 2003.






Talon is a lightweight deployable terminal based on civilian hardware packaged for military use. A ruggedised laptop controls the terminal from either the base or remote location. It is easily transported and quickly set up by a two-person crew.

















TCW Comcen and Reacher Satellite Terminal

Reacher is the replacement for the VSC 501 It is a fully ruggedised land terminal designed for X-Band Military Satellite Communications. It is designed for a Forward Operating Headquarters Unit, is vehicle mounted and has a detachable cabin and associated trailer. There are three variants: Medium, Large and All Terrain.

Commercial Satellite Systems

MOST Satellite Dome & Satellite dish
SWEDISH satellite
Military off - the - shelf Satellite Terminal (MOST)
Nera and Portable Satellite systems
Iridium 9555 satellite phone

Sky Net 5

Skynet 5 will provide next generation military satellite communications services for all three UK Armed Services. It will use advances in technology to improve flexibility, reliability, survivability, and security. 


The three Skynet 5 satellites will deliver military satellite communication services to the Armed Forces through to 2020 at least.

Equipment Details