How the Super Bowl will reach US submarines, remote outposts

Ever wonder how troops serving abroad in remote locations and even underwater might get to watch the Super Bowl?

The very same highly advanced technology used to pass classified drone video feeds will be deployed this Sunday to ensure U.S. troops can see the Super Bowl -- - no matter how far away from home they are.

Thousands of remotely deployed U.S. service members will get to watch the action as the San Francisco 49ers, led by quarterback Colin Kaepernick, face Joe Flacco and the Baltimore Ravens at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans.

Thanks to this very advanced technology, U.S. forces will get to see every moment of one of America’s greatest sporting tradition -- with the exception of the always-hyped Super Bowl commercials, due to contractual rules.

The game will be transmitted to personnel serving on ships and submarines in the Pacific Ocean, Mediterranean and Persian Gulf. Remote outposts in Afghanistan will also receive the transmission.

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Forces will be able to watch the action with only a second or two delay caused by the feed hopping a couple of satellites.

The broadcast is the result of a unique media, government and technology partnership with the American Forces Radio and Television Service, Raytheon and the U.S. Air Force.

The system will be “as small as a laptop, and [equipment] the size of a shoebox and umbrella” yet “in other places will be projected onto large screens in hangers” like aircraft carriers out at sea, explained Raytheon Intelligence and Information Systems’ chief innovation officer Mark Bigham.

While the Global Broadcast Service (GBS) may be normally used to disseminate video, images and other data, other major sporting events have been broadcast over it as well, including the World Series, NCAA Tournament final four and the National Championship game (Alabama vs. Notre Dame).

Bigham served in the U.S. military, and drawing upon his own experience explained the importance of finding ways to boost morale.

“Stationed overseas, [I] longed for what’s going on, to connect back with home. As U.S. forces spread out in different areas all over the world, broadcasting the game is a great way to keep them fired up.”

How does GBS work?

Every day, U.S. troops rely on video and data feeds delivered by GBS to stay safe and successfully execute missions.

For more than a decade, the Global Broadcast Service has leveraged commercial direct broadcast satellite technology to allow U.S. warfighters to pass information securely to each other while posted all over the world.

GBS augments government communications systems to deliver both classified and unclassified data and video over both military and commercial satellites. Given there are no cell towers out in the ocean, transmitting data to personnel at sea is a particular challenge.

Sailors rely on satellites to transmit voice, video and email, and Raytheon’s Navy Multiband Terminal and its antennas talk to these satellites to receive the data.

The game will be received by a small antenna on masts, transferred to a receiver and then relayed to flat panel screens throughout the ship or submarine.

This technology means admirals, commanders and sailors can not only watch the Super Bowl but also communicate and pass information with one another no matter where they are located on the globe.

NMT is one of three types of terminals Raytheon provides to support the Army, Navy and Air Force. Since 2004, more than 1,700 terminals and 100 Navy shipboard and submarine variants have been installed. The Navy plans to install the terminals on more than 300 more U.S. Navy ships, submarines and shore stations.

The U.S. military's newest Advanced Extremely High Frequency satellites move data more than five times faster than older satellites and all three types of terminals have successfully tested with it.

Ballet dancer turned defense specialist Allison Barrie has traveled around the world covering the military, terrorism, weapons advancements and life on the front line. You can reach her at or follow her on Twitter @Allison_Barrie.