Army Communications and Information Systems (United Kingdom)

Army Communications and Information Systems (United Kingdom)

The British Army operates a wide range of communications and information systems [ [ Royal Signals Equipment] ] . Some of these are specialised military systems, while others are procured off-the-shelf. They fall into three main categories: satellite ground terminals, terrestrial trunk communications systems, and combat net radio systems. Every part of the Army uses combat net radio, but only the Royal Corps of Signals operates trunk systems and multi-channel satellite communications.

atellite ground terminals

Satellite ground terminals play an important part in modern military communications, in view of their high bandwidth and their independence of local communications infrastructure [ [] Skynet 5 Operational Overview] .

In-service systems

TSC 503

The TSC is a transportable compact multi-role satellite bridging system manufactured by SELEX Communications [ [ UK/TSC 503 Data Sheet] ] . It can be deployed in two forms: the first is a rapid deployable terminal with 2MB/s capability that can be on-air in 30 minutes with a two-man crew. The larger full capability terminal, with a 4M antenna, has much increased capacity and a time-into-action of two hours with a four man crew. Users can be located up to 4km from the antenna. The terminals are composed of a number of man portable containers. TSC 503 entered service in April 2004, and all terminals are now held by 90 Signals Unit, Royal Air Force.

PSC 504

PSC 504 is an X-band military satellite communications system designed to provide Special Forces with a highly secure, reliable, flexible and rapidly deployable manpack SATCOM system. Manpack patrol terminals fit in the top of a standard Bergen rucksack. The terminals can be assembled and connected to the satellite network within five minutes by one soldier, even in darkness, to provide long-range secure voice, data and messaging services, as well as a store and forward (e-mail-type) facility. Data services operate at up to 64 kbits/s [ [ Talisman X-band military satellite communications system - Janes C4I Systems] ] .

PSC 506

PSC 506 terminals operate as an autonomous network that employs Demand Assigned Multiple Access technology and provides secure speech and secure data. Key elements comprise Fixed Communications Bases, portable Headquarters Terminals and Patrol Terminals.


Talon is a lightweight deployable terminal which uses off-the-shelf commercial technology packaged to provide a terminal suitable for military use [ [ Talon Satellite Ground Terminals] ] . The terminal is controlled from a ruggedised laptop and can be set up by a crew of two trained operators within 30 minutes. Talon has been employed by the ARRC (Allied Rapid Reaction Corps) in Germany and was used extensively in Operation TELIC in Iraq. Talon terminals were brought into service in July 2002 and were incorporated into the Skynet 5 contract in October 2003. Each terminal can be carried in a single vehicle, towing the generator mounted on a trailer.


Reacher is the most recent satellite communications acquisition and comprises the mobile satellite ground terminals that give military ground forces communications access through Skynet 5 satellites. There are two variants in service with the British Army and Royal Marines. Reacher Medium is a ruggedised land terminal with a 2.4m antenna designed for X-Band military satellite communications. It is designed to operate with a forward deployed headquarters, and is carried on a Bucher Duro 6x6 vehicle with a detachable cabin and towing a trailer. Reacher Large is mounted on the same vehicle as Reacher Medium, but has a 4.5 m antenna. Reacher All Terrain is in service with the Royal Marines and is mounted on two BV206 vehicles with associated trailers. All Reacher terminals are transportable using Chinook helicopters, C130 aircraft, by sea and by rail. The systems are supplied by Paradigm Secure Communications [ [ SATCOM Acquisition Team - Defence Projects] ] .

No longer in service

VSC 501

The VSC 501 was a vehicle mounted tactical military satellite terminal operated by 30th Signal Regiment and the Royal Marines. It operated in the military SHF SATCOM frequency band of 7.25 to 8.4 GHz via a geosynchronous satellite, with a data rate of up to 512 kbits/s. The normal manning level for an VSC 501 station was a crew of two and the system could be set up to provide communications within 15 minutes. The VSC 501 was the workhorse of the UK tactical military SATCOM system for some years. It was carried in both Land Rover (Army) and BV 206 All Terrain Vehicles (Royal Marines). An update package completed in late 1999 extended the life of the terminal for several years [ [ UK/VSC 501 vehicle-borne satellite communications station - Janes C4I Systems] ] . Deployments include the Gulf during Operation GRANBY and Bosnia.

TSC 502

The TSC 502 was a transportable satellite ground terminal. It was used by 30th Signal Regiment on Operation CORPORATE in the Falklands War.


Dagger is a Land Rover-mounted modular military and civil band satellite communications system designed for rapid deployment and installed in a hard top Land Rover 110 TD5 [ [ App_web.pdf Dagger data sheet - SELEX Communications] ] . It was supplied by SELEX Communications, and saw service in the Balkans, Afghanistan and on Operation TELIC.

Terrestrial Trunk Radio Relay

Terrestrial trunk radio relay systems are primarily used to connect the headquarters of brigades, divisions and higher military formations. They typically deliver voice and data services, and can be based on boxed or palletized equipment, or vehicle installations (which may be mounted under armour for use on the battlefield).

In-service systems


Ptarmigan is a mobile, secure battlefield communications system based on the Plessey System 250 architecture. It was initially designed to meet the needs of the British Army of the Rhine in West Germany. The system consists of a network of electronic exchanges known as trunk nodes. These nodes are connected by multichannel UHF and SHF radio relay links that carry voice, data, telegraph and fax communications. The Single Channel Radio Access subsystem is effectively a secure mobile telephone system that gives isolated or mobile users an entry point into the PTARMIGAN network. Ptarmigan has undergone a number of upgrades since it came into service in 1982. These include the introduction of an Air Portable Secondary Access Node for 16 Air Assault Brigade, and the General Purpose Trunk Access Port software enhancement which provides interconnectivity to other nations' tactical communications systems.

Ptarmigan was part of Project Wavell (see [] )and was the result of work carried out by the Joint Operation Computer Project Team (JOCPT) established at the headquarters of I Corps (United Kingdom) in Bielefeld in 1968.


Cormorant is the area trunk communications network that links the component headquarters of the British Joint Rapid Reaction Force [ [ EADS DS UK: Cormorant] ] . The system is manufactured by the European EADS company. Cormorant has two basic elements:
*The local access component, based on an ATM switch, provides local digital voice subscriber facilities and a high speed data local area network for over twenty headquarters.
*The wide area component allows the interconnection of these headquarters across a large geographical area, as well as the means to interconnect with single service and multinational systems. The system is containerised and can be operated in either vehicle mounted or dismounted mode. The underlying technology is based on open standards such as ATM and TCP/IP.A Cormorant network can consist of the following installations:
*Local area support module
*Core element
*Bearer module
*Long-range bearer module (tropospheric scatter)
*Management information systems
*Interoperable gateways
*Tactical fibre-optic cabling
*Short range radio

No longer in service

BRUIN (obsolete)

Introduced in 1967, BRUIN was the Army's first area trunk network mounted in both wheeled and tracked vehicles, which connected formation headquarters and units using multi-channel UHF radios. BRUIN provided a partially secure and automatic system for the transmission of both voice and teleprinter traffic. It was the primary trunk communications system of the British Army of the Rhine from 1967 to 1982. During the years of the Cold War Royal Signals units in 1st British Corps trained with BRUIN, and deployed their equipment and vehicles among the woods and farms of northern West Germany, putting their skills to the test in an annual cycle of command and signal exercises [ [ AFV 439 in BAOR 1979] ] .

Future Systems

FALCON (not yet in service)

FALCON will replace Ptarmigan with a new generation tactical trunk communications system, currently being manufactured by BAE Systems Integrated System Technologies. It will deliver secure voice and data over an all Internet Protocol system across multiple security domains. The system is to be fielded by the Royal Signals and the Royal Air Force in the 2009-2013 timeframe.

The key platforms will be the Wide Area Switching Provision (WASP) nodes with up to six radio links and a series of Command Post Support (CPS) nodes which will be scaled for headquarters of differing sizes, further supported by transportable (palletised) and early entry nodes. All platforms will utilise the British Army's standard [ MAN HX 60 Cargo Vehicle (Light)] platform. [ [ Falcon Secure Trunk Communication System] ] .

Combat Net Radio

Combat net radio systems are typically used for tactical communications at section and platoon level upwards. They are operated by soldiers from every part of the Army as well as the specialists from the Royal Corps of Signals.

In-service Systems


Bowman is the name of the tactical communications system used by the British Armed Forces. The Bowman C4I system consists of a range of HF radio, VHF radio and UHF radio sets designed to provide secure integrated voice, data services to dismounted soldiers, individual vehicles and command HQs up to Division level.

No longer in service

Larkspur (obsolete)

Larkspur was the combat net radio system used by the British Army in the 1960s and replaced by Clansman in the late 1970s.

Clansman (obsolescent)

Clansman was the combat net radio system used by the British Army from the late 1970s until its replacement by Bowman.


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