DB - Digital Battlespace

Five Eyes nations to benefit from comms enhancements

10th September 2018 - 12:00 GMT | by Andrew White in London

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Armed forces from across the Five Eyes community are set to benefit from a series of tactical communications enhancements allowing them to operate in command and control denied and degraded environments (C2D2Es).

Solutions are set to reduce the vulnerability of small unit teams operating in contested environments which continue to witness the proliferation of electronic warfare threats across the battlespace.

On 20 August, Lockheed Martin announced it was preparing to launch the first GPS III satellite in December 2018, designed to provide forward deployed units with 300% increases in the accuracy of GPS data. The satellite will also provide ground elements with up to 800% increases in anti-jamming capabilities over legacy GPS II satellites, Lockheed Martin officials have claimed.

Developed in support of US Air Force requirements, the GPS III satellite (designated GPS III SV01) has already been transported to Cape Canevaral, Florida, by C17 aircraft from Buckley Air Force Base, Colorado. The air force is planning to launch a constellation of 10 GPS III satellites.

The news follows a £4.3 million contract awarded by BAE Systems Information and Electronic Systems Integration on 8th August by the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to explore the concept of ‘Protective Forward Communications’.

According to an official solicitation, published on the Federal Business Opportunities website, the contract will require BAE Systems to design and develop a solution capable of supporting tactical communications requirements of small unit teams operating austere environments. 

The programme is likely to feature requirements for low probability of intercept and detection; protection against exploitation by enemy electronic warfare capabilities; as well as assured connectivity across land, sea and air domains. BAE Systems was unable to provide further information regarding development work. 

Finally, Harris Corporation is gearing up to enter Low Rate Initial Production (LRIP) of its Special Operations Forces Tactical Communications (STC) Next Generation Handheld radio. The news  is also expected to trigger further discussions with Five Eyes PNFs regarding Foreign Military Sales of the technology. 

According to company officials, more than 150 radios have already been delivered to USSOCOM to date for testing and training purposes, including tranches delivered in 2017 and most recently, in April 2018. Tests continue to be conducted to develop concepts of operation (CONOPS) at Fort Bragg, MacDill Air Base and Naval Special Warfare in Norfolk, Virginia. 

‘LRIP will see the start of development of CONOPS to support USSOCOM components. By end of 2018, USSOCOM will be looking to equip the first company sized formations with the radio,’ a company official explained to Shephard.

Defence sources explained to Shephard how special operations forces from Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the UK are likely to follow USSOCOM’s procurement of the AN/PRC-163 STC in order to maintain optimal levels in interoperability.

The STC handheld features multiple specialist capabilities including the Trellisware Technologies’ TSM-X MANET waveform; as well as an ISTAR Mission Module developed in collaboration with L-3.

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