Super Bowl at sea
Raytheon tech brings the big game to ships, submarines
Back when Jon Henderson served on the submarine USS Key West, the closest he came to watching the Super Bowl was getting a printout of the score. No hooting and hollering at the big plays, no halftime show – just the final tally, sometimes hours after the game’s end.
Things are a little different today, said Henderson, who left the Navy in 1997 and now works for Raytheon, managing the satellite technology that allows sailors, submariners and aircraft carrier crew to watch a live Super Bowl broadcast.
That broadcast, carried by the Armed Forces Radio and Television Service, allows Henderson to give his successors a luxury he wishes he’d had during his deployment.
“As far as the morale aspect, it’s huge,” Henderson said from his office in Hawaii. “They’re having a great time and they’re really enjoying being able to see the game with their shipmates.”
Raytheon technology brought the game to thousands of sailors and submariners, mainly deployed in the Pacific Ocean. They watched the New England Patriots battle the Seattle Seahawks by way of the Global Broadcast Service – the same satellite system that provides daily weather data, reconnaissance video from unmanned aerial vehicles and newscasts from CNN, Fox News Channel and Al Jazeera.
Raytheon manages two parts of the Global Broadcast Service: a dish that pushes the broadcast to the satellite, and the receive suites, or the ship-mounted equipment that decrypts and processes the signal for viewing. The company also developed the weather-forecasting technology that allows meteorologists to advise Super Bowl planners on how to work around severe weather.
Troops serving on land saw the same Armed Forces Radio and Television Service broadcast but received it through a separate communications system. The game is broadcast twice so crew members who were sleeping or working during the actual game can watch later.
The military Super Bowl broadcast looks and sounds nearly identical to the production civilians see around the world; the big difference is the commercials. The Armed Forces Radio and Television Service’s rebroadcast agreement with the National Football League does not include the Super Bowl’s famously funny, provocative and poignant ads.
“They get their own brand of military commercials,” said Terry Hill, who manages Raytheon’s piece of the Global Broadcast Service. “It’s informational. Stuff for the soldier in the field.”
The same technology has also carried other major sporting events, including the NCAA Final Four and college football championships.
"The users let us know what they want to see, and GBS makes it happen," Hill said. "That's what makes it so special, and that's what makes it so valuable."