Frenetic activity in the Tactical Radios world

Tactical radio providers
Tactical radio providers continue to digest lessons from recent conflicts and anticipate future threats as they continually improve their hardware and software products. (Harris)

It has been another year of frenetic activity in the tactical radios world. Armada’s Tactical Radios Compendium returns providing readers with a digest of news in the hardware, software, programmes and accessories domains.

At the European level, Bittium (formerly Elektrobit) has made important software and waveform improvements to its TAC WIN battlefield internet system. New products have been unveiled by MESIT Defence (formerly DICOM) in the form of its RF-40V vehicular radio. Similarly, Thales debuted a new family of tactical radios at the Eurosatory exhibition held in Paris this June, in the form of the company’s SYNAPS product range. This new product series is derived from the CONTACT programme which is rolling out a new family of tactical radios for the Armée de Terre (French Army) to replace its existing Thales PR4G family tactical radios. Work also continues on existing major radio programmes in the European context such as the German Army’s SVFuA (Streitkräftegemeinsame Verbundfähige Funkgeräte-Ausstattung/Armed Forces Joint Composite Capable Radio Equipment) transceiver being realised by Rohde and Schwarz.

Global Developments

Beyond suppliers in Europe and North America, significant tactical radio development work is ongoing in Australia, Israel and South Africa. To this end, Barrett Communications is seeing an increased demand for High Frequency (HF: three megahertz to 30MHz) communications which offer a comparatively lower cost alternative to Satellite Communications (SATCOM), particularly for cash-strapped nations. New products in the HF domain have been forthcoming over the last year from Barrett in the form of the 4050 HF transceiver. Elbit Systems has also unveiled new HF radios like the HF-8000, the latest member of the firm’s E-Lynx tactical radio family. Fellow Israeli tactical radio providers Rafael Advanced Defence Systems is expanding the capability of its BNET tactical radio series to accommodate a brigade-sized deployment using one network, while forging ahead with the deliveries of new transceivers. Deliveries are also in the offing for new tactical radios to equip the South African armed forces from local firm Reutech.

North America

North America is home to one of the most energetic tactical radio industries, as well as the United States’ armed forces having a major appetite for such technology. Several leading tactical radio firms are based in the US, such as General Dynamics which is vying to provide the manpack dimension of the US Army’s HMS (Handheld, Manpack, Small Form Factor) tactical radio requirement. New products have been released by Harris in the form of its RF-7850S handheld radio which carries the firm’s new Soldier Time Division Multiple Access Waveform and the RF-300H HF transceiver expected to debut in 2017. Harris is also working with TrellisWare, the latter of which is providing its TSM-X waveform for the new handheld radios which Harris is developing for a United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM). Meanwhile, Harris has waveforms of its own on the horizon for 2017. Product enhancements continue with Canada’s Per Vices Corporation improving its Crimson family of radios, and Raytheon performing similar work for its Maingate product family. Rockwell Collins is also involved in the manpack dimension of the HMS, providing its GR-2000 transceiver for consideration, which the firm states will be spun out into a distinct product destined for export.

Accessories and Threats

In the accessories domain, both Elno and Invisio have announced new headphone and hearing protection products, while continuing to fulfil the requirements of the Australian, Canadian, French, United Kingdom and US armed forces. Atlantic Signal is continuing its supply of tactical communications headsets for the USSOCOM.

As we look towards the future, tactical radio engineers and users face new challenges. The increased use of a software-centric approach will ease the modernisation of software-defined radios as they move through their lives. At the threat level, the efforts of adversaries to hamper or destroy satellite communications could encourage the further development of HF radio, while Russia has displayed its ability to perform serious levels of tactical communications jamming in recent conflicts. Finally, at the hardware level, battery safety will need to be continually improved, while battery size and weight is commensurately decreased. The provision of adequate hearing protection, along with clear audio reproduction, will continue to remain a priority as armed forces equip their troops around the world.

by Thomas Withington