RAF signals communications fall into three
categories. First, there is a large complex of HF transmitter and
receiver facilities in the UK, including communications centres with
automatic message routing equipment. Operations include those on behalf
of Air Command, the Military Air Traffic Organisation, NATO, and the
Second, the RAF Signals Staff operate message relay centres, both
automatic and manual and also manages the RAF's General Purpose
Telephone network. RAF command operating procedures are monitored on all
networks to ensure high standards are achieved and maintained. To reduce
risk of compromise, all RAF communications facilities designed to carry
classified information are checked for communications electrical
security by command staff. For the use of the all the armed forces, the
MoD has procured a fixed telecommunications network called Boxer under a
Private Finance Initiative (PFI) contract, which will save the
increasing expense of renting lines from the private sector.
Third, the main operation of the Skynet Satellite Communications System,
which offers overseas formations telegraphed, data and speech
communications, is controlled from Oakhanger (Paradigm/ Astrium
Services). Skynet 5D entered service in 2013 and provides the next
generation of flexible and survivable satellite communications services
for defence purposes.
Robust military satellite communications services are essential to
support inter and intra-theatre information exchange requirements and
ensure that deployed and mobile forces are not constrained by the need
to remain within the range of terrestrial communications.
Commander Signals has a large engineering design staff of engineers,
technicians and draughtsmen. Manufacturing resources include a general
mechanical engineering and calibration capacity, plus a facility for the
systems design, development and installation of certain airborne signals
The majority of the RAF Signals (communications) units are located at
RAF Leeming and RAF Digby.
90 Signals Unit (90 SU)
With almost 900 personnel, 90 SU concentrates on support to
Expeditionary Operations and has two major sub units:
Force Generation Wing (FGW)
FGW provides the majority of the support required to deploy and sustain
90 SU on its expeditionary missions. FGW has sub units (mainly squadron
size that provide engineering support, information services, operational
evaluation and conversion and a squadron dedicated to the provision of
planning and sustaining missions.
Tactical Communications Wing (TCW)
The Tactical Communications Wing (TCW) is the Force Element at Readiness
within 90 Signals Unit providing communications support world-wide.
There are four subunits (Field Communications Squadrons) providing a
complete range of communications services to deployed RAF formations.
Joint Service Signals Organisation (JSSO)
A Joint Service organisation, the JSSO provides specialist
communications support to deployed units and researches future
communications systems that might be of interest to the UK.
Joint Services Signals Unit (Digby) (JSSU (D))
One of several JSSUs operating under the command of the JSSO. JSSU(D)
provides support in the UK and overseas for specialist communications
591 Signals Unit (591 SU)
Concentrates on computer security.
Aerial Erector School
Responsible for training Aerial Erectors at basic and advanced levels
plus all aspects of fibre optics.
RAF Mount Pleasant in the Falkland Islands has No 7, 303 and 751 Signals
Units under command.
Joint Tactical Information Distribution/Display System (JTIDS)
JTIDS is a secure tactical datalink network to enable the UK armed
forces to participate in Allied operations. JTIDS is now in service
throughout the UK armed Forces. The RAF is believed to operate JTIDS
terminals on Typhoon, Tornado GR4, E-3D Sentry, Sentinel R1, VC10,
TriStar, Hercules C130 and Sea King Mk7. In the future it is likely to
be fitted to Lightening II, Voyager, Atlas and RC-135W Rivet Joint.
From late 2013 the RAF’s Transportable Telecommunications
System/Deployable Local Area Network will be replaced by Falcon. This
new system will operate at all levels of command in conjunction with
systems such as Bowman, Cormorant, Skynet 5 and with allies’
communication and information systems.