Squad Talk

Soldier-to-soldier communication has of late come to the front pages of radio manufacturers' production menus, as door-to-door urban missions require communication kit that 'speaks' through walls and up and down floors. Accessories now include osteo-conductive headsets and voice-activated throat microphones, simple enhancements that leave those important microseconds to the trigger finger.






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Publication: Armada International
Author: Keggler, Johnny
Date published: October 1, 2010

Lockheed Marlin developed a persistent wireless broadband battlefield network that it released in August of this year. The Monax is a mobile, private military network infrastructure that brings secure smartphone connectivity to the warfighter.

In other weirds, when squad communication is being jammed or. as many squad radios are unsecure. under threat of being monitored, the soldier can reach into his or her pocket and call the squadie over in the next building with an iPhone or Blackberry. This is hardly the most efficient means of squad communication, hut certainly a very viable option when seconds count and traditional communication channels are either compromised or unavailable.

Body-worn Talk Boxes

During the Eurosatory 2010 exhibition in Paris. Harris unveiled its new Falconfighter modular communication system for Future Soldier System programmes. The Fa Icon fighter was built around the company's RF-7800S Leader Radio (LR). The complete system includes a helmet-mounted camera and display. audio and hearing protective headset. GPS system and other accessories - the main system component is the RF-7SOOSLR radio and computer.

The 7800S LR is a modular upgrade to the RF-7800STeam Radio (TR). whereby a Windows-CE (Wince) application environment is added for embedded user application development. The LR receives secure voice, data and team member positional information, as well as access to upper echelon networks (the TR keeps comms to an intra-squad level).

The RF-7800S TR has been adopted by Norway's Normans future soldier system project and the Royal Brunei Armed Forces, as well as around 9(KJ going to Sweden's Inter/lntra Group Radio programme. The RF-7800S is in use in more than 20 other nations and. during the first-half of 2010. Harris supplied the same TR variant to more Asian and Middle Eastern customers - the door is certainly open for a volley of upgrades to the LR standard.

Ultimately, an inter-squad radio must be flexible, rugged (which goes without saying), soldier proof and preferably have two channels. Providing secure communication is not a top priority, but is increasingly becoming less an afterthought and more often a must-have.

ITT's Spearnet radio provides AES 256-bit encrypted inter/in Ira-squad communication over self-forming, self-healing mobile ad hoc networks. This soldierproof, wideband dismounted squad radio uses an IP infrastructure, which allows it to be configured as an IPv4 router to connecl computers, sensors or cameras to shuttle information or stream video when the situation dictates. A vehicle mount for grab-and-go recharging offers 20 Watts of power to push direct communication links out to eight kilometres, and networked links to 30 or 40 km. according to the company.

In November 2009 ITT received a S 9.7 million contract award by the US Naval Surface Warfare Center to produce 1450 'Netted Iridium" tactical radii) handsets that use the Distributed Tactical Communication System - radio only (DTCS-RO). The hand-held units provide ove r-t he -horizon, beyond linc-ofsight C2 capabilities, keeping soldiers in touch with comrades and commanders via the Indium satellite constellation.

The DTC1S tactical radio features a built-in GPS for position reporting through worldwide blue force tracking, and the over-the-horizon capability provides for squad and platoon contact in rugged terrain. Nist (National Institute for Standards and Technology)-cerlified AES 256-bit encryption keeps eavesdroppers out of the loop.

The 500-gram DTCS radio integrates with the Global Command and Control System. Cocom (Combatant Command) 'Top' common operating picture and FBCB2 structures.

Push-to-Talk (PTT) hardware has evolved in a compass rose of directions since the Morse code was king. Today PTT is common with all radio systems, and this is where companies such as Nacre and Silynx shine, providing dual wireless PTT accessories for hands-on-weapon radio activation. The general concept is to put a PTT unit on the body and one on lhe assault weapon rail system, therefore, depending on the situation, one can easily access one of two radio channels with but a movement of a finger.

Silynx has provided its C4Ops software-defined tactical communication headset and ear-protection system to a variety of combat-active units. In 2009/2010 US special forces and top-tier Nato units have adopted the system, and the C4Ops has been procured for the Land-125/200 Australian Soldier Modernisation programme.

The C4Ops system was designed from its inception for the special forces operator, as it provides full-spectrum hearing protection and hearing enhancement, with active and impulse noise reduction, supernormal hearing (for capturing those whispers in the next room) and GPS for Blue Force Tracking systems.

Under a NOK 38 million contract in 2008, Nacre supplied its Quietpro intelligent hearing system to the Norwegian Armed Forces with a hearing protectioncapable headset. The legacy Quictpro has since been upgraded to the new Quitcpro- version.

Nacre reports that more than 50,000 of its Quietpro system have been delivered to 18 countries. One reason could be its versatility, as it can be adapted Io work with many radio types and intercommunication systems, and up to two comm systems can be connected simultaneously.

The Quietpro system automatically measures the degree of its seal to ensure protected hearing - the user may also initiate a system 'leakage' test. The system applies noise attenuation when needed, and when 'dangerous' noises cease the system restores full hearing capabilities.

Keeping Track

Tadiran's PNR-500 ultra-light personal net radio features AES encryption and a whisper function for covert operations. The radio is a small hand-held that does a free- frequency search through a dynamic frequency allocation module to ensure clear communication in a noisy or jammed environment.

Poland's Radmor has designed its R35010 Personal Soldier Radio system to operate over the 2.4 GHz band using Direct Sequence Spread Spectrum burst modulation, thereby providing resistance to jamming and interception. The twoway, half-duplex system keeps squad members in touch up to a few hundred metres. A wireless PTT switch and headset are standard.

The R35010 transmits using Frequency Hopping Spread Spectrum and the signal is encrypted to AES 128-bit standard.

Thaies in France has supplied its MiItrak system to the British Fist future soldier programme. The Miltrak is built around the St@r MiIIe-S inter/intrasquad soldier radio, which is to be in the hands of all squad members, with the leader/commander using a navigation module and display unit as well. The radio operates over the 325 to 470 MHz bandwidth - a low UHF frequency that better propagates through walls and dense vegetation.

The radio provides simultaneous voice, GPS connectivity/location reporting, short messages and data - a duplex voice feature allows a three-user active conference with an unlimited number of listeners.

The 370-gram St@r Mille radio is available in the intra-platoon (St@r MiUe-P) and a lightweight vehicular variant: the St@r MiIIe-V. The Miltrak system is one of the few that provides the simple communication infrastructure, coupled with Blue Force Tracking and a soldier-proof easeof-use that is required for soldiers to stay in touch without concern over operating the equipment correctly.

From the American subsidiary of the same company, ihe Tha´es AN/PRC-14S Jem radio has graced the palm of many a LIS special torces operator. Ils communication capabilities are legendary, and in July of this year Boeing dropped a pair of Jems into its ScaneagJe drone lo provide narrowband communication relay to demonstrate the feasibility and easy of providing longer-range linc-of-sight communication to units operating in areas where this type of propagation is not possible.

This tesi saw the Jem radios being driven (in automobiles) around Washington State and Oregon, where the terrain is roughly the same as in Afghanistan, as the drone flew above Boeing's Boardman. Oregon facility with a Jem radio providing relay between the two ground Systems.

HMS & SRW

Genera) Dynamics C-i Systems is a name synonymous with point-to-point and point-to-multi-point communication systems. Under the JTRS programme, Team Generili Dynamics has developed the AN/PRC-154 Rifleman Radio using the common core radio architecture - the foundation on which the JTRS HMS product range was built. The hand-held Rifleman Radio simultaneously transmits both voice and datii using She Soldier Radio Waveform (SRW). delivering Type 2 encrypted inter-squad communication and provides reach-back to the combat network for enhanced siiuaiional awareness to every soldier.

The Soldier Radio Waveform was first demonstrated running on multiple networks during a C4ISR On-The-Move Event 09 conducted by the US Army at Fort Dix. New Jersey in December 2009. During the exercise the SRW version [.OC also ran on the Wearable Soldier Radio Terminal (WSRT) from ITT. The WSR"]' was used extensively during SRW development.

A Vital Link

The battlespacc grows and yet lightens with every footfall - keeping in touch with comrades is paramount (o ensuring a successful mission. Allowing the upper echeIon access to soldier movements without having access to direct their every step may be even more important.

Soldier- to-soldicr radio designers have realised that segregating, the communication levels keeps soldiers in the loop, and on task.

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