New Radios for Ireland

Irish Army Soldier
The Irish Army is overhauling its tactical communications with a large acquisition of new systems to replace scores of legacy transceivers.

The Irish Defence Forces have taken an important step forward in the modernisation of their communications with a procurement of new tactical radios.

Up to 6,000 tactical radios are being supplied by Thales to the Irish military, chiefly the company’s SquadNet and Synaps transceivers. The order breakdown covers 3,500 SquadNet radios and 2,500 Synaps systems, according to a Thales press release announcing the news. The press release continued that Synaps deliveries to the Óglaigh na hÉireann (Irish Defence Forces) have already begun. The first batch of SquadNet radios will be delivered during the second half of 2024.

SquadNet is a personal role radio using wavebands of 430 megahertz/MHz to 470MHz or 865MHz to 880MHz, depending on the variant. The radio provides voice-over-internet protocol communications. The company says that SquadNet’s point-to-point range is circa 2.5 kilometres/km (1.6 miles). The Synaps radios the Irish military is receiving are derived from the Contact radios Thales has developed for the French military. Covering Very/Ultra High Frequency (V/UHF: 30MHz to three gigahertz) wavebands, the Irish military will receive Synaps-H handheld radios, Synaps-V vehicular/naval transceivers and the Synaps-A airborne radios. As well as equipping the An tArm (Irish Army), Synaps-V radios will outfit the vessels of the An tSeirbhís Chabhlaigh (Irish Navy). Synaps-A will used by the aircraft of the An tAerchór (Irish Air Corps).

ESSOR for Ireland

The Irish military’s Synaps and Squadnet radios will be outfitted with Thales’ proprietary Geomux blue force tracking waveform. The Synaps radios will also carry the pan-European ESSOR (European Secure Software Defined Radio) High Data Rate Waveform (EHDRWF). The EHDRWF is a UHF waveform using a waveband of 225MHz to 400MHz. Up to 200 nodes can be housed on a single EHDRWF network. The waveform can handle data rates of up to one megabit-per-second. It can sustain full duplex data and voice-over-internet-protocol communications. Transmission security includes fast frequency hopping. EHDRWF can work in environments where global navigation satellite signals are badly degraded or denied.

The ESSOR project is being realised via an international effort involving Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Portugal. All six countries will be introducing the EHDRWF into their tactical communications over the coming years. The a4ESSOR consortium is the industrial element of the programme involving Bittium, Indra, Leonardo, Radmor, Rohde and Schwarz, and Thales. Ireland’s acquisition of the EHDRWF represents one of the first acquisitions beyond the ESSOR partner nations. Porting the EHDRWF into Ireland’s new radios will greatly enhance the European interoperability of the Irish military.

Sources close to the programme told Armada that dismounted troops will be outfitted with Squadnet, with their commanders using both Squadnet to communicate with subordinates and Synaps-H to communicate with higher echelons. Traffic can be moved between these radios simply by connecting both transceivers to a vehicle’s intercom, for example. The Synaps radios will also carry command and control traffic shared by the Irish Army’s Systematic SitaWare battle management system.

The contract to supply the radios is worth $81 million, according to Ireland’s Department of Defence. The new Synaps and Squadnet radios replace the Irish military’s existing ITT/L3Harris Single Channel Ground and Airborne Radio System (SINCGARS) tactical radio family. These radios were supplied to the Irish military sans accompanying US encryption standards. The new radios being delivered will include communications and transmission security standards such as AES-256. AES-256 is an advanced encryption standard established by the US National Institute of Standards and Technology.

The introduction of the new radios represents an important modernisation for the Irish military. Despite the small size of the country’s armed forces, they are energetically engaged in operations around the world, in particular supporting peacekeeping efforts. Ireland’s acquisition of the EHDRWF will also help deepen interoperability with her European allies who are also adopting this new waveform.

by Dr. Thomas Withington