Site: L-3 Communications
Communication Systems-West
640 North 2200 West
Salt Lake City, UT 84116-2988

WTEC: W. Brandon (report author)



Communication Systems-West, a division of L-3 Communications, is the new name for an organization with forty years experience in military communications systems. The original entity was a division of Sperry Univac, which was merged with Burroughs to become Unisys. Unisys Defense Systems was purchased by Loral in 1994, and the company became part of Lockheed Martin when Lockheed acquired Loral's defense business in 1996. One year later, Lockheed Martin created a new business unit consisting of 10 of its former divisions with ownership divided between Lockheed Martin, two Lockheed Martin executives having names beginning with "L," and Lehman Brothers. The new organization was renamed L-3 Communications. Market recognition is the main obstacle this company faces with such a distinguished history in communications systems, products and services.

The new L-3 Communications company has about 6,000 employees, organized currently as 12 divisions, with 1997 revenue of 1billion. Communication Systems-West is the largest of these divisions. It is the Communication Systems-West Division of L-3 Communications which is the subject of the following L-3 report.

Communication Systems-West division is located in Salt Lake City, Utah. It produces high performance intelligence communication systems that distribute signal intelligence (SIGINT) and imagery data through satellite relay systems for the DOD and other government agencies. It manufactures in low and medium quantities. In addition to its high data rate, secure communication systems, L-3 also produces ruggedized, industrial strength subsystems and provides a full range of support services for prime contractors, commercial customers, and government agencies. The company's three main product groupings are airborne satellite terminals, transportable ground terminals, and a family of common data link (CDL) equipment.


During the 1990s, CS-West has designed, built, and supported the deployment of seven families of advanced airborne satellite communications data link systems for the U.S. Air Force, Army, Navy, and NASA. All of these links are currently deployed and in use, or they are supporting current flight test activities. Return link data rates range upwards from 1.544 Mbps, and command link rates range from 1.2 kbps to 200 kbps. These links operate over a variety of commercial and military antennas with diameters from 30 to 48 inches. CS-West links provide wideband satellite communications transmission for both manned and unmanned surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft.

CS-West provides satellite based UHF command and control capability for unmanned air vehicles (UAV) programs. It accomplishes this through the use of a new demand assignment modem assembly that can control up to three vehicles within one 25 kHz UHF channel. CS-West has a significant history of providing control and telemetry equipment that dates back to the Sergeant missile program and past UAV programs.


CS-West has provided a number of air transportable earth terminal models for special applications. A particular challenge was a high gain/temperature (GT) performance, 11.3 meter tri-band terminal undertaken in 1990. The first of these medium size terminals, which set up within 12 hours, became operational in 1993.

Current development has led to a family of transportable, lightweight, tri-band terminals capable of accessing C, Ku, and X-band satellites. A new product, believed to be the world's first, is an integrated antenna feed that can illuminate the dish in all three bands without any mechanical change or refocusing.

In addition, a number of key components (e.g., converters, multiplexers, and monitor/control hardware) have been developed. They provide common modules across CS-West's satellite terminal product lines, and they are useful building blocks for integrated turnkey terminal development.


A modular interoperable data link family of multi-channel communication products can provide return link data transmission from 1.544 to 274 Mbps, in a variety of frequency bands, with modular, interoperable components. Both airborne and surface terminals are available for implementing line of sight, air to ground data links. Technology advances on closely related modems, antennas and radio frequency components are also applied to satellite terminals.


CS-West is actively engaged in unique technology development for specialized airborne antennas, wideband spread spectrum multiplexers, modems, and command/control hardware. Of special note is CS-West's development of application-specific integrated circuits (ASICS). The ASICs are software programmable devices designed to accommodate BPSK, QPSK and 8ary phase shift keying (8PSK) modulation, with or without direct sequence spreading and data rates up to 75 Mbps.

An important leading edge product is a digital compression device capable of compressing video, sensor imagery, voice, etc. It has been evaluated in compression of synthetic aperture radar imagery by a 4:1 ratio with very satisfactory results. Based on a proprietary vector quantization algorithm, this approach is fundamentally different from others and shows promise of significantly better performance.


CS-West has historically provided quick response, high quality, special configurations of data links (rf and optical) and satellite communication terminals operating at frequencies though Ku-band for both military and commercial satellites. Special achievements have been packaging for small size and transportability, low passive intermodulation product antennas, and tri-band feeds. CS-West is continuing its focus on special leading edge applications. Recent advances include UAV systems, the integrated tri-band feed, vector quantization compression codes, and mod-demod ASICs.


L-3 Communications. 1997. Future Data Link Trends. L-3 study report.

____. 1997. L-3 Communications Acquires 10 Kunits from Lockheed Martin in $525 Million Transaction. New Company Focuses on Secure Communications. Press release (April 30, 1997).

____. 1997. L-3 Communications, Communication Systems-West. Briefing Charts (June).

Published: December 1998; WTEC Hyper-Librarian