Malaysian Army details tactical communications architecture
Officials from the Malaysian Army have shared with MONCh the tactical communications structure used by the force in the field. Speaking during the DSA 2018 exhibition being held in Kuala Lumpur between 16 April and 19 April, army signallers revealed that force uses soldier-portable X-band (7.9 gigahertz/GHz to 8.4GHz uplink/7.25GHz to 7.75GHz downlink) terminals to provide a backhaul from deployed units to headquarters.
To date, such terminals are equipping the Malaysian Army’s mechanised infantry battalions with the provision of strategic and tactical communications the responsibility of the army’s Royal Signals Regiment. The signallers continued that Malaysia presents some unique operational challenges as regards tactical communications, chiefly because of the dense vegetation which covers much of the country, its undulating landscape and also its dense urban areas, all of which conspire to make the planning, provision and management of conventional Very High Frequency (VHF) and Ultra High Frequency (UHF) communications particularly challenging due to the ever-present risk of line-of-sight obstruction by either the rugged topography, tree canopy or tall buildings. The army also makes use of significant High Frequency (HF) communications deployed at most echelons, although HF has its own challenges in terms of bandwidth limitations; hence the dependence on X-band SATCOM, which is provided by through the lease of private bandwidth from a commercial provider.
The Malaysian Army has an interesting approach to its provision of conventional tactical communications in that the vast majority of transceivers used at all levels is provided through a single vendor in the form of Sapura; itself a joint venture involving Thales. Sapura provides the army’s personal role radios used by platoon and squad members, its handheld radios used by squad/platoon commanders, the army’s vehicular radios and its manpack radios which are used at the company and battalion levels. Malaysian Army signallers added that at the regimental headquarters level, the force uses radio over internet protocol equipment to provide a link between the HQ and the battalion level, alongside SATCOM and HF.
The headquarters level also makes use of Sapura’s RPT-1000 repeater station which can be used to knit together disparate networks such as two THC-5100 networks (see below), or one HF and VHF network, with the RPT-1000 able to act as a repeater station should a network’s range be limited due to the type of line-of-sight obstructions discussed above. The mainstay for the handheld radios used by the army is the TRC-5100 VHF family which transmits across 30 megahertz/MHz to 88MHz and employs several local proprietary waveforms. Intra-squad communications are provided by the Thales STAR Mile-S personal role radio which is produced under licence by Sapura, which also supplies the vehicular and manpack radios used by the force.