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Abbreviations


 

British Army - The Royal Signals - Digital Communication Systems - Ptarmigan - Triffid - Euromux - Cormorant - Falcon - Promina - Personal Role Radio British Army -Armed Forces - a9a6

THE ROYAL SIGNALS

DIGITAL COMMUNICATIONS SYSTEMS


The principal tactical role of the Royal Signals is to provide corps to brigade level communications that link higher commands to battalion HQs. The area communications systems used by the Royal Signals include:

PERSONAL ROLE RADIO (PRR)

PTARMIGAN

TRIFFID

EUROMUX

CORMORANT
FALCON

PROMINA

DIGITISATION

PERSONAL ROLE RADIO (PRR)

Personal Role Radio (PRR)

The Personal Role Radio (PRR) is a small transmitter-receiver that allows infantry soldiers to communicate over short distances - even through thick cover or the walls of buildings - without shouting, hand signals or relaying messages.

PRR enables section commanders to react quickly, aggressively and efficiently to rapidly changing situations including contact with the enemy - greatly increasing the effectiveness of infantry fire teams. PRR is issued to every member of an eight-strong infantry section, and will be available to other troops in due course.

PTARMIGAN

Ptarmigan is a mobile, secure battlefield system that incorporates the latest technology and has been designed to improve communications reliability, capacity and interoperability.

Ptarmigan remains the core equipment for the British Army Tactical Trunk Communications System, and has undergone a number of upgrades to be better prepared to meet the challenges of changing deployments and new operational requirements.


This has included the introduction of an Air Portable Secondary Access Node (SAN) for 16 Air Assault Brigade. The General Purpose Trunk Access Port (GPTAP) software enhancement will allow improved interconnectivity to other nations tactical systems.

Bowman is shortly to replace the HQ infrastructure element of Ptarmigan. In time, Ptarmigan is due to be replaced by Falcon, which will not be in service for several years. Falcon is expected to build on the lessons learned from the current introduction of Cormorant.

Built by Siemens Plessey Christchurch (now part of BAe Systems) in the mid 1980s, Ptarmigan is a user friendly, computer controlled communications system which was initially designed to meet the needs of the British Army in Germany. The system consists of a network of electronic exchanges or Trunk Switches that are connected by satellite and multi-channel radio relay (Triffid) links that provide voice, data, telegraph and fax communications.

The Trunk Switch, radio and satellite relays together with their support vehicles, comprise a 'Trunk Node' and all field headquarters include a group of communications vehicles that contain an Access Switch which can be connected to any Trunk Switch giving access to the system. This ensures that headquarters have flexibility in both siting and facilities, and that trunk communications then present no constraints on operations. Additionally Ptarmigan has a mobile telephone or Single Channel Radio Access (SCRA) which gives isolated or mobile users an entry point into the entire system.

TRIFFID

Radio relay links within Ptarmigan are provided by TRIFFID which is a radio equipment that has three interchangeable radio frequency modules known as 'heads'. Each TRIFFID link carries the equivalent of up to 32 voice circuits at a data rate of 512 kb/s plus an engineering circuit.


EUROMUX

EUROMUX is a trunk system manufactured by Racal (now part of the French Thales group), which is similar in principle to the Ptarmigan system and is interoperable with the trunk systems of other NATO armies. TRIFFID is used to provide the relay links within the system.

CORMORANT

CORMORANT vehicle mounted

In service with 2 Signal Regiment, Cormorant will deliver new area communications capabilities to British Forces and the prime contractor for the Cormorant programme is the European EADS company.

Cormorant will comprise two primary equipments: a local access component, based on an ATM switch, which will provide digital voice subscriber facilities and a high speed data LAN for over 20 Headquarters; and a wide area component will allow the interconnection of these Headquarters, on a 'backbone' communications network across a large geographical area as well as the means to interconnect with single service and multinational systems.

Designed to link all components of a Joint Force, the system will enable the force to deploy and operate its Wide Area Network (WAN) communications system in either peacekeeping roles or in a fully operational military deployment. The system is fully containerised and can be operated in either vehicle mounted or dismounted mode. Each small HQ is designed to scale up in line with the requirements of a particular operation.

A Cormorant network can consist of the following vehicle-mounted (or dismounted) installations:

  • Local Area Support module

  • Core Element

  • Bearer Module

  • Long-Range Bearer Module (Tropo)

  • Management Information Systems

  • Interoperable Gateways

  • Tactical Fibre Optic cabling

  • Short Range Radio

FALCON

Diagrammatic representation of the proposed Falcon Communication Infrastructure

In March 2006 the UK MoD signed a contract with BAe Systems Insyte for the first increment of the Falcon Secure Trunk Communication System.

Falcon will provide a modem, secure communications infrastructure for deployed formations and operating bases.

As such it will help to deliver an information infrastructure that will provide the UK Armed Forces with the network enabled capability required in the 21st century.

The contract is valued at over 200 million and the equipment will enter into service at the turn of the decade (possibly 2011).

PROMINA

Promina networks deliver pulse code modulation (PCM) and compressed digital voice analogue voice, video conferencing, Internet Protocol (IP) frame relay, asynchronous transfer mode (ATM) and legacy Synchronous and Asynchronous data services over satellite, microwave, radio and leased line services.

It is extensively used to multiplex Ptarmigan, ATacCS, and JOCS systems along side traditional voice, video and fax services over a common bearer. Promina networks form the core of NATO and Joint Force HQs, and are deployable for rapid reaction corps.

DIGITISATION

Digitisation refers to putting the capabilities for digital communications into a platform.

Digital modulation is the process of encoding a continuous analogue signal into a discontinuous signal. Then numerical codes, consisting of discrete on (one) and off (zero) pulses are assigned to represent a measure of the basic signal. The measuring process involves sampling the amplitude of the continuous signal at intervals and transmitting a digital code to represent the amplitude.

The same process can be used in data transmissions where digital codes represent letters and numbers. Linking platforms from aircraft to mines and sensors on the ground in an intelligent circuit, allows these systems to interact automatically on a continual flow of information around the circuit.

Linked to digitisation, the next trend in communications is probably towards secure image transmission, linking information from humans and sensors.

For example, a platoon commander's sketch map of the current situation in his area can be transmitted simultaneously to the company, battalion, brigade and divisional headquarters and either modified, or confirmed by sensor information.

This map could then be scanned into the overall C3I system and both humans and sensors made aware of the results. Time spent in talking about the situation on the air and the possibility of confusion and misunderstandings are dramatically reduced.

However, implementing digitisation has not been a stress-free process and much remains to be done. In the US it was always predicted that the process of digitisation would be 'like giving birth to a bale of barbed-wire'. It should be noted that developers in both the US and the UK have not been disappointed in this regard.

Personal Role Radio Image Courtesy of Selex Communications - CORMORANT Vehicle Image Courtesy of EADS - Falcon Image Courtesy of BAe Systems