VHF Combat Net Radios (CNR) provide the main tactical
communications for battalions and battlegroups with their sub-units
down to section level. CNR communications are the responsibility of
the units themselves, and the Royal Signals have no direct role in
supporting these networks. Like other combat arms, Royal Signals units
are equipped with CNR for their own tactical communications.
The Bowman family of digital radios, and
the associated Combat Infrastructure Platform (CIP), are key to the
plans of the Ministry of Defence (the Department), to transform
military communications and enable the Armed Forces to operate more
effectively and at a quicker pace.
The pressing need to replace the ageing Clansman radios used since the
1970s with reliable, secure voice communications has made Bowman one
of the UK Army's top priorities.
By enabling transmission of large quantities of electronic data Bowman
is intended to provide information on the position of UK forces, and
forms the underlying network to carry the CIP (Combat Infrastructure
Programme). CIP is intended to replace and automate many existing
manual processes for command and control on the battlefield. It is
also key to plans for ‘Network Enabled Capability’; joining up
military communications and electronic systems in a ‘network of
networks’. The ability to see the position of UK forces, on screens in
vehicles and headquarters, should amongst other benefits, help to
reduce the frequency of ‘friendly fire’ incidents.
The secure radio capability provided by Bowman has only recently begun
to enter service, later than originally intended, Though Bowman was
declared in service in March 2004 and many useful new capabilities
have since been delivered, conversion of vehicles and units has been
slower than envisaged. The Bowman project covers all the VHF and HF
radio configurations used as manpacks or installed in land, sea and
The Royal Signals is playing a major role in the introduction into
service of Bowman. The outline Bowman conversion programme is as
2004 – 2006: 12 Mechanised Brigade; 4 Armoured and 7 Armoured
Brigades; 1 Mechanised Brigade; 16 Air Assault Brigade and 3 Commando
2007 – 2008: 19 Light Brigade and 20 Armoured Brigade.
The programme involves conversion of up to 15,700 land vehicles, 141
naval vessels, and 60 helicopters (mainly Chinook and Merlin), with
training for some 75,000 service personnel. Contracts worth £2.4
billion were placed with General Dynamics UK, in 2001 for Bowman and
in 2002 for the Combat Infrastructure Programme (CIP). Around 45,000
Personal Role Radios, 47,000 manpack and vehicle radios, and 26,000
computer terminals are being acquired.
The system is being designed to provide, in conjunction with
Ptarmigan, Cormorant, and in time (probably from about 2011 onward)
Falcon, integrated digital communications network across the whole
Reports in early 2007 suggested that work is proceeding on how best to
improve the portability of the Bowman VHF manpack radio, aiming to
deliver an improved solution for specific roles which will be based on
a re-engineered and lighter radio. This should be introduced over the
next two years.
Image Courtesy of Isode