C4iSR: Joint & Common Equipment

HF communications gain momentum with NATO forces

02 May 2018

The French military is pursuing a number of next-generation communications technologies to address the improving electronic and cyber capabilities of near-peer adversaries. Source: French Special Operations Command

High Frequency (HF) communication systems are witnessing a resurgence as forward deployed and small unit teams seek to overcome emerging challenges associated with operating in Command and Control Denied or Degraded Environments (C2D2Es), Jane’s has learned.

According to senior service personnel from across the NATO special operations community, HF communications are being considered by multiple force components as an alternative capability to UHF satellite communications (SATCOM), which continue to be heavily relied upon for beyond line of sight (BLOS) communications.

Jane’s understands that special operations forces from NATO countries such as France, Germany, Spain, and the United States are now developing improved communications techniques to address emerging operational requirements to counter near-peer adversaries such as Russia, which is employing increasingly effective electronic and cyber capabilities under its so-called ‘New Generation Warfare’ strategy.

For example, the commander of the French Special Operations Command (COS), Rear Admiral Laurent Isnard, unveiled on 19 December 2017 a list of requirements for next-generation technology capable of supporting forward deployed units over the next seven years.

This included an HF communications requirement that could be employed to support small unit teams demanding “long range connectivity” across Africa. French special forces are currently operating in Mali, Chad, Ivory Coast, Tunisia, Niger, and Burkina Faso, a COS spokesperson said.

One available option for the COS is the French Ministry of Defence’s Future Land HF Radio programme, which according to Colonel Michel Pardoux, Head of Telecoms Technical Branch at the agency, is being viewed as a complement to legacy SATCOM solutions.

Falling under the French Army’s Communications Numériques Tactiques et de Théatre (CONTACT) effort, the Future Land HF Radio programme is currently in test phase with Thales’s HFXL waveform. Designated ‘Salamandre’, the concept is designed to increase resiliency in tactical communications networks across the battlespace.

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