Airsoft Prop – Satellite communication dish

Communication is the backbone of any successful battle

Fighting with a large army under your command is nowise different from fighting with a small one: it is merely a question of instituting signs and signals. – Sun Tzu

This airsoft prop is made from an old Ku-band satellite dish.  The dish is comprised of lightweight aluminum and has a circular aluminum frame on the back with a fold out stand.  The dish is approximately 32 inches wide and about 8 inches deep (when measured from the edge of the dish to the very back of the frame).

Back-pack frame mount

Normally, a dish this size would be quite cumbersome to carry while out in the field. 

I have heard stories of people carrying smaller ‘direct-tv’ style dishes and destroying them after tripping and falling right onto the dish.  Since this unit already had a circular, folding frame mounted to the back side of the dish, it makes for a perfect frame to attach shoulder and waist straps to.  This allows a player to strap the dish to their back while still being an effective member of the squad.

To attach the shoulder harness and waist straps, I simply drilled holes in the bottom frame and used cotter-pins to secure the harness to the frame.  since the back frame to which the harness is attached is a circle and does not press against the players back, the player is able to carry a small tactical gear pack along with the dish.

An unobtrusive feed-horn

This is the view from the very front of the dish.

In the center of the dish, I mounted a 4 inch, aluminum pipe to act as a “feed-horn”.  The feed-horn is only 4 inches long as that is the approximate depth from the outer edge of the dish to the center of the dish.  By keeping the feed-horn short, I avoid the issue of the pipe being caught on branches and such while out in the field.  Even though the pipe is short, it still lends a cool, techie look to the prop without being fragile or at risk of being easily broken or snagged.

The four silver colored screws that are visible are used to attach the dish to the circular bracket on the back.  There are 4 black screws in the center of the dish which attach the feed-horn mounting plate to the dish.  I painted the dish using Krylon olive green, ultra-flat spray paint.  As your can see, there is a scratch in the finish in the upper right of the dish.

A collapsible, folding frame

One of the coolest aspects about this dish is the folding frame.  There are three parts to the frame.  The first is called the body frame and attaches directly to the dish body via four aluminum screws.

The second part of the frame hinges down and away from the body of the dish and is called the platform frame.  The platform frame provides a stable, circular platform on which the dish can rest when on the ground and it is configured for simulated “communication”.

The final piece of the frame is the straight pipe which acts as a support to hold the body of dish at the desired angle when the system is assembled.

As you can see in the photo, the harness simply rests on the ground, below the platform frame.

Customizable electronics package

A prop that does not do anything can definitely look cool.  A prop that the player must interact with in some way steps the game up a notch and adds a bit more ‘realism’ to the scenario.

This dish has a small electrical junction box that acts as the mounting plate for the feed-horn and a housing for whatever electronics may be placed into the dish.  I am currently developing an interactive, embedded device that I plan on housing within the junction box to complete the ‘electronics package’.


This prop has been a lot of fun to build.  I am still working on the embedded portion of the electronics package and I have not yet taken the prop out into the field for a game.  Hopefully it will be as fun to use as it was to build.  🙂

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