Recent purchases of new communications systems are one of several command and control modernisations ongoing in the Finnish Army.
In early December 2022 Conlog announced it would supply containerised communications systems to the Puolustusvoimat/Försvarsmakten (Finnish Defence Force). A press release said these will be used “to maintain communications in challenging environments.” This is particularly apt given Finland’s location in Europe’s far north. Should all contract options be exercised, this could be worth up to $42.4 million to the company.
Colonel Antti Tunkkari, inspector of signals for the Maavoimat/Armén (Finnish Army) told Armada these new containerised systems will form part of the force’s M18 Command and Control (C2) system. M18 transmits data and voice communications across the tactical manoeuvre force using wired and wireless links.
Conlog will begin deliveries this year concluding in 2024, Col. Tunkkari continued. The containerised systems will house Bittium tactical radios and routers. Several tactical radios used by the army are provided by the company along with the TAC WIN (Tactical Wireless Internet Protocol Network). TAC WIN is an innovative system providing broadband IP connections across the battlefield for mobile and fixed units. The company’s literature says TAC WIN can also be used by naval and air forces.
The TAC WIN architecture includes tactical routers, radio heads, a specific waveform and a tactical network management tool. The waveform carries traffic securely across an IP network which can comprise up to 1,000 nodes. Varying wavebands of five megahertz/MHz, ten megahertz or 20MHz let data be carried at rates up to 50 megabits-per-second. Transmission security is assured with the waveform’s AES-256 (Advanced Encryption Standard-256) encryption. Added security is provided through frequency hopping and mobile ad-hoc networking. T waveform carries voice traffic alongside data.
The radio heads send and receive traffic across the network. Three different heads are available carrying traffic on frequencies of 225MHz to 400MHz with a five-megahertz bandwidth. Alternatively, a radio head with bandwidths of either five megahertz or ten megahertz is available. This radio head uses frequencies of 1.350 gigahertz/GHz to 2.4GHz. Wider bandwidths are achievable with Bittium’s TAC WIN Radio Head-IV using 4.4GHz to five gigahertz frequencies providing five, ten and 20MHz channel bandwidths. Col. Tunkkari says that TAC WIN is now integrated into the M18 architecture: “This will enable extending the backbone network’s voice and data transmission capability to lower unit levels.”
Bittium also provides conventional tactical radios to the Finnish Army. These include its Tough SDR vehicular and Tough SDR handheld radios. Both use frequencies of 30MHz to 2.5GHz and can carry the TAC WIN waveform. Bittium is part of the pan-European Secure Software Defined Radio (ESSOR) programme developing a common high data rate waveform. ESSOR is managed by OCCAR (Organisation Conjointe de Coopération en matière d’Armement/Joint Armaments Cooperation Organisation). OCCAR is a multilateral European institution managing pan-European defence projects. The A4ESSOR consortium developing the waveform includes Bittium (Finland), Indra (Spain), Leonardo (Italy), Radmor (Poland), Rohde and Schwarz (Germany) and Thales (France).
ESSOR’s efforts will result in a ultra-high frequency waveform using frequencies of 225MHz to 400MHz. Up to 200 nodes can be housed on a single ESSOR network. The waveform can handle data rates of up to one megabit-per-second. The militaries of the ESSOR member states are expected to adopt the HDR waveform in the coming years. This will be an important step forward in enhancing pan-European communications interoperability.
Col. Tunkkari said the army typically uses Elbit’s CNR-9000 tactical radio series at the battalion level. The CNR-9000 family includes very high frequency PRC-930SW and PRC-930HP backpack radios. These use frequencies of 30MHz to 88MHz, although Elbit says customers can optionally extend this to 108MHz. Similar frequencies are used by the vehicular VRC-950 transceiver. Like TAC WIN, these radios link into the M18 architecture.
Beyond the new containerised communications systems and continued roll-out of M18, Col. Tunkkari says plans cover new High Frequency (HF: three megahertz to 30MHz) radios for the army. This will include “the testing and procurement of software-based HF radios” for the Finnish Defence Force. Moreover, the reach of the M18 system will be extended to the tactical level.
As Finland looks forward to joining the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation in the coming years, these modernisations will have added importance. Enhancing interoperability within and between forces is vital to ensuring manoeuvre is performed rapidly and efficiently across all domains. The Finnish Army’s ongoing communications modernisation will make an important contribution.
by Dr. Thomas Withington