Military Technology 9/2019

20 · MT 9/2019 Tactical Communications European Enhancements Europe’s appetite for tactical communications is insatiable: a number of countries are moving from legacy radios to new transceivers, with several major relevant programmes being conducted right now. Europe is arguably witnessing the most intense activity in the tactical communications for several years. There are major acquisitions in a range of countries including Austria, Croatia, Finland, France, Germany, Poland, Spain and the United Kingdom. These initiatives are ostensibly focused on replacing legacy tactical radios with new systems and enhancing commu- nications capabilities. Furthermore, developments have not been confined to hardware. Europe’s forthcoming European Secure Software Defined Radio (ESSOR) waveform continues to offer promise in further facilitating coalition operations across the continent, with its migration into Finland’s tactical communications; and expected migration into transceivers equip- ping French and Italian forces. Germany is also keenly expected to join the ESSOR initiative in the near future. Croatia Croatia is one of several European nations overhauling its tactical com- munications. In August 2018 it was reported that the Croatian Army is plan- ning the acquisition of 700 vehicular and 6,000 handheld radios – acquisi- tions expected to complete by the end of 2031, with an estimated budget of $113 million ( € 101 million). One possible candidate transceiver is the domestically-produced TAKRAD, developed by a trio of local companies – RIZ Professionalna Elektronica, Impol and Metal Product. The TAKRAD handheld radio covers a 225-450MHz waveband and carries narrow and wideband waveforms. It can handle simultaneous voice and data traffic and has US National Institute of Standards’ (NIS) AES-256 level voice and data encryption. In addition, TAKRAD has an embedded global positioning system and dual push-to-talk functions. This allows the user to perform two-channel communications with upper or lower echelons, along with their own network. Channel spacings of 12.5kHz-1.2MHz are provided, with a 1mb/s data carriage rate. Alongside local companies, it is highly likely that tactical communications vendors in North America, Europe and Israel will aim to fill Croatia’s requirements. This could result in a degree of collaboration with local industry to satisfy national requirements. Finland In Finland last November, Bittium disclosed its plans to commence supplying its TOUGH COMNODE to Finland’s armed forces this year. Essentially a handheld communications system, the device features Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) and Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) attri­ butes. Put simply, VOIP behaves very much like internet telephony servi­ ces such as Skype, while SIP can be employed for initiating, maintaining, modifying and terminating real-time Internet Protocol (IP) communications traffic across which voice, data or imagery can be passed between two or more points on an IP network. Moreover, TOUGH COMNODE can be used as a Single-Pair High-Speed Digital Subscriber Line (SHDSL) repeat- er/modem and IP router. The former enables equal rates of transmission and reception of data across conventional telephone cables, but at fast- er speeds than a conventional voice-band modem. Usefully, the TOUGH COMNODE lets standard combat net radios (CNR) be used on an IP net- work using Radio Over IP (ROIP) protocols, the manufacturer emphasises. It can furnish military vehicles, connecting with their standard CNRs to fa- cilitate ROIP in the field, thus acting as a gateway between CNR and VOIP networks. Meanwhile, SHDSL allows TOUGH COMNODE to be used as a field telephone, to act as an SHDSL access point and to provide a tactical IP network, employing both standard Ethernet connections and SHDSL. Bittium told MT in late 2018 that TOUGH COMNODE will provide fresh capabilities for the Finnish armed forces, forming part of the M18 sys- tem, for which the firm is the prime contractor. M18 is a command and control (C2) system using an IP backbone and wireless communications, notably CNRs and cellular/wireless devices. At its core is the company’s Tactical Wireless IP Network (TAC WIN), which acts as a central node to establish a high data-rate battlefield IP backbone used to carry C2 data. Cleverly, TAC WIN connects with conventional CNRs, turning their data transmissions into an IP format, allowing them to be moved around the network. Furthermore, cellular/wireless devices connected to TAC WIN also transmit and receive traffic over the network. Company information in January revealed a contract from the Finnish armed forces to perform further developmental work on the TAC WIN waveform. Specifically, the company is to enhance its data transfer attributes and survivability. Late last year Bittium announced a contract to furnish the Austrian Army with a new IP-based backbone, which will see the company providing TAC WIN, TOUGH COMNODE and TOUGH VOIP products. Deliveries are expected in 2020-21. The determined onward march of the ESSOR waveform continues unabated. In April, Bittium told MT it expects to hand over the first TOUGH SDR [software defined radio] handheld and vehicular transceivers outfitted with ESSOR to Finland’s armed forces by year end. Both operate in the 30MHz-2.5GHz waveband and carry the Bittium Narrowband Waveform (BNW), ESSOR and the TAC WIN waveforms. The BNW supports networks of up to 25 nodes and is typically used for mounted/dismounted voice communications, while the TAC WIN waveform is designed for theatre/ operational-sized deployments. Using flexible bandwidths of 5-20MHz, it can host up to 1,000 nodes on a single network. Regarding Finland’s use of ESSOR, Bittium also told MT that the wave- form will be ported into the TOUGH SDR Handheld and Vehicular radios. This is being done to enhance the Finnish military’s participation in coali- tion and multinational initiatives. The ESSOR HDR “will facilitate commu- nications in coalition operations where different national forces are using Thomas Withington Talk Show Bittium’s TOUGH COMNODE is one of several systems to be networked into the Finnish armed forces’ new M18 C2 system. (Photo: Bittium) Croatia’s TAKRAD handheld radio is the result of collaboration between three lo- cal companies. Croatia is one of several European countries with significant requirement for new tactical receivers. (Photo: Takrad)