British Army - The Royal Signals - Tactical Communications - Combat Net Radio - Bowman - Armed Forces - a9a7




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.


Bowman radio

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 air platforms.

The Royal Signals is playing a major role in the introduction into service of Bowman. The outline Bowman conversion programme is as follows:

2004 – 2006: 12 Mechanised Brigade; 4 Armoured and 7 Armoured Brigades; 1 Mechanised Brigade; 16 Air Assault Brigade and 3 Commando Brigade.

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 battlefield.

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