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Eurosatory 2018 – SWave-ing not Drowning

Leonardo on course for Italian Army communications modernisation

Officials from Leonardo have updated MONch on the firm’s plans regarding the rollout of its SWave tactical radio family for the Italian Army during the Eurosatory exhibition being held in Paris between 11 and 15 June.

The force is currently involved in an over-arching enhancement of its tactical radios for its manoeuvre and combat support forces which will see the army move away from the legacy SINCGARS (Single-Channel Ground-to-Air Radio System) transceivers it currently uses towards a new generation of Software Defined Radios (SDRs) which are being procured from Leonardo’s SWave range. At the heart of the modernisation is the procurement of the SWave-VQ1 vehicular and SWave-HH-E handheld transceivers; both of which transmit across a 30 megahertz/MHz to three gigahertz/GHz waveband. As its nomenclature suggests, the SWave-VQ1 is being rolled out across the Italian Army’s combat vehicle fleet. This radio will be used for communications between vehicles and also downwards to dismounted platoon/squad commanders using their SWave-HH-E radios. As well as providing vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-squad communications, the SWave-VQ1 will connect the vehicle’s electronics including its battle management system, HUMS (Health and Usage Monitoring System) and sensors with the outside world. This is facilitated through the connection of the SWave-VQ1 to the vehicle’s MSR-165 unit which will convert this disparate data into a protocol to allow it to be shared across the force, and with other echelons of command.

Leonardo representatives stated that the adoption of the SWave-VQ1 will allow the replacement of two legacy SINCGARS radios currently accommodated by the Italian Army’s combat vehicle fleet with a single transceiver. In terms of performance, the radio possesses four channels and produces 50 watts of power via its built-in amplifier. Moreover, the radio carries a range of waveforms including SINCGARS, to allow it to communicate with legacy transceivers within the Italian Army and also with Italy’s NATO allies using this waveform. The NATO HAVEQUICK-I/II waveform is also included to allow ground-to-air/air-to-ground communications: particularly important for communications with combat aircraft during coalition operations.

Regarding proprietary Italian Army waveforms, the SWave-VQ1 carries the SWave Solder Radio Waveform (SRW) which allows the vehicle to communicate with dismounted platoon/squad commanders with the SRW also carried by the SWave-HH-E. For vehicle-to-vehicle communications, the SWave-VQ1 is equipped with the High Data Rate Waveform (HDW) which, once development is complete, is expected to be capable of accommodating traffic at rates of up to two megabits-per-second. Development of the HDW should be completed over the next two years, company officials added. Meanwhile the SRW has a reduced data rate of between 500 kilobits-per-second and one megabit-per-second. Over the long term, the Italian Army will receive the new ESSOR (European Secure Software Defined Radio) waveform which will provide voice, data and imagery communications over the next five years. The ESSOR initiative falls under the responsibility of the European OCCAR (Organisation Conjointe de Coopération en matière d’Armement/Joint Organisation for Cooperation in Armaments) body and involves Finland, France, Italy, Poland, Spain and Sweden, and will yield a waveform which can be ported into SDRs to facilitate interoperable communications among the core ESSOR members, and any other nations whom acquire the waveform. To an extent, ESSOR will replace SINCGARS to facilitate interoperable communications although conspicuous by its absence, it will not include the United States, and several other NATO members. For this reason, it is expected that SINCGARS waveforms will continue in service certainly for the next decade and possibly beyond. The Italian Army is expected to complete the modernisation of its manoeuvre and combat support elements with the SWave family by 2030.

Thomas Withington

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