Bowman (communications system)

Bowman (communications system)

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. Bowman has a number of specific applications installed on the base radio infrastructure known as BISAs. Bowman has been released incrementally as a number of phased capability releases known as BCIP's with BCIP 4F currently being deployed. It replaces the Clansman series of radios in service.

Procurement history

The concept of Bowman dates from a 1989 UK MoD General Staff Requirement (GSR) for a system to replace the ageing Clansman radio system. The GSR was subsequently modified to accommodate post Cold War scenarios. The procurement programme has had a long and chequered history, with a number of consortia involved in the development and bidding process. This process culminated in the failure in 2000 of the preferred bidder, Archer, to deliver the requirement within budget and on time, and the resultant cessation of the contract by the UK MoD. The subsequent rebidding process for the contract was won by CDC Systems UK Ltd, now General Dynamics United Kingdom Ltd, elements of design and manufacturing have also been sub-contracted to SELEX Communications, ITT Corporation, Harris Corporation, L-3 Communications, DRS Tactical Systems and Thales Group. AgustaWestland was responsible for training installations and classrooms for the conversion training. The procurement cost of the supply and (initial) support phase for Bowman is approximately £1.9 billion and the current acquisition cost of the whole project is £2.4 billion. Bowman’s initial operating capability was delivered into service in March 2004, it is planned to be fully rolled out across the Armed Forces by the end of 2008 and will continue in service until approximately 2026.

ystem overview

Bowman provides a tactical voice and data communications system for joint operations across the British Armed Forces in support of land and amphibious operations. It will be integrated with over 20,000 military vehicles, from Land Rover Wolf to the Challenger 2 Main Battle Tank. The entire Royal Navy fleet will also be fitted with Bowman equipment and all the major helicopter types supporting land operations, such as Apache, Chinook, Merlin and Lynx will be fitted. Bowman features enhanced communications security (COMSEC) through integrated voice and data encryption devices and enhanced Electronic Protective Measures through features such as frequency-hopping spread spectrum. It also provides tactical situational awareness for commanders through GPS links, helping to reduce the probability of friendly fire. The complete contract involves more than 48,000 radios (excluding the 45,000 Personal Role Radios) and more than 30,000 computer terminals being installed in more than 30,000 platforms, together with the necessary training of around 75,000 Service personnel. The Bowman system is a fundamental part of the British Military achieving a Network Enabled Capability, as it will provide the carriers for the passage of data between the various software applications involved. It is also an integral part of the Future Integrated Soldier Technology concept. Bowman is managed from within the MoD DE&S by the BATCIS Integrated Project Team.


Nominally the lowest deployed part of the Bowman series of radios is that provided by Marconi-Selenia Communications (then Selenia Communications, now SELEX Communications, Davies Communications Division), in the form of the UHF H4855 Personal Role Radio (PRR), which is primarily used by infantry fire teams (at section level and below). PRR is only partially connected with the Bowman programme, insofar as it was hived off from the acquisition process in October 1999 for more rapid implementation, and the first of 45,000 units formally entered service in early 2002. Operating in the 2.4 GHz band, PRR is has no integrated encryption devices and does not intercommunicate with the rest of the Bowman network, but is widely acclaimed as having revolutionised intra-squad communications and small-unit tactics.

Models are designated "UK/PRC", which stands for "United Kingdom / Portable Radio Communications", or "UK/VRC", which is "United Kingdom / Vehicle Radio Communications". Following this logic "UK/ARC" stands for "United Kingdom / Airborne Radio Communications".

VHF radios

*VPT - a UK Type 1 (Pritchel) encrypted section to platoon-level UK/PRC354 5W VHF Portable Transceiver (VPT)

*ADR+ - an enhanced and improved 'Bowmanised' version of ITT Corporation's company/squadron-level SINCGARS (Single Channel Ground and Airborne Radio System) frequency-hopping radio with a 30-88 MHz frequency range. Depending on its configuration, the ADR+ is variously designated UK/PRC355 (5 W manpack), UK/PRC356 (16 W ground-role manpack), UK/VRC357 (16 W vehicle clip-in radio), UK/VRC358 (16 W low-power vehicle radio), or UK/VRC359 (50 W vehicle-mounted high-power radio).

The manpack version of the ADR+ will have a Automatic Situational Awareness Module inserted with the introduction of BCIP 5.2 which will enable Own Situation Position Reports to be broadast without the presence of an associated terminal.

Under the terms of the baseline contract ITT Defence is delivering a total of some 26,000 ADR+ radios and 8,000 VPTs, complemented by 580 examples of the UK/ARC341 VHF aircraft role radio (a derivative of the company's SINCGARS AN/ARC-201D airborne transceiver) for helicopter platforms.

HF radios

The Bowman HF frequency-hopping radios, 10,800 examples The Bowman version is designated UK/PRC325 in its basic 20 W manpack form and UK/VRC328/9 in its 100 W high-power and co-sited vehicular configurations. The UK version of the PRC-150 has had the proprietary Harris Citadel encryption removed, having instead the UK Type 1 (Pritchel) encryption and frequency hopping waveform, also the Falcon II's original 3G-ALE dual-band HF/VHF frequency range (1.6-60 MHz) has been narrowed to the 1.6-30 MHz (HF) band.


The top tier in the Bowman series of radios is provided by the UHF, Mobile ad-hoc network ITT UK/VRC340 HCDR (High Capacity Data Radio), a 'Bowmanised' version of ITT's Mercury NTDR (Near-Term Data Radio) wide-band networking transceiver. HCDR has a 225-450 MHz operating frequency range. It has wideband (5 MHz) and narrow band (500 kHz) modem configurations, with a user rate of 288 kbit/s on a 375 kbit/s channel and 576 kbit/s on a 750 kbit/s channel. Some 3,600 HCDRs are being supplied. HCDR provides a self managing mobile Internet Backbone using standard RFC interfaces and routing protocols.

Ancillary equipment

Provision of the associated User Data Terminal (UDT) for vehicular and static use has been contracted to DRS Tactical Systems Ltd, which also produces the Bowman Management Data Terminal (BMDT) for network management, the Vehicle User Data Terminal (VUDT) with keyboard and touchscreen for use on the move, the Staff User Data Terminal (SUDT) for command centres, and the PBISA Processing Unit (PBPU) for Challenger 2 tanks.

Since the start of the programme the capabilities of the UDTs (based on 700 MHz Pentium processors) have evolved, their original 256 MB RAMs and 20 GB drives having been superseded by 512 MB RAMs and 40 GB drives. The contractor for supply of Portable User Data Terminal (PUDTs), based on a 266 MHz Intel StrongARM processor, is L-3 Communications.

Responsibility for supply of Bowman audio ancillaries, including the stereo staff-user headset, noise-canceling general-purpose handset, and loudspeaker unit, has been vested in SELEX Communications, which also provides the lightweight headset, respirator adapter, and remote pressel switch associated with the PRR.

Racal (now Thales Group) has been selected to provide antennas for the Bowman contract. These include HF Wire/Vehicle, VHF Vehicle/Elevated, VHF Ground Spike, 5.4 metre GRP Mast and UHF Vehicle/Elevated Antennas.


Bowman also consists of a number of specifically designed Battlefield Information System Applications running over the Bowman infrastructure. The UDTs (User Data Terminals) are currently limited to supporting a maximum of two BISAs simultaneously, due to the performance limitations of the UDTs. ComBAT, the main Command and Control (C2) tool for Bowman has faced some criticism relating to performance, ease of use and interface design. A significant portion of these problems have been addressed in the latest version of ComBAT. BISAs include - ComBAT (C2 & SA), Makefast (Engineering), FC (Fire Control) and CBRN BISA.


When Bowman was first introduced into service, the system was said to contain many faults to the extent which "The Sun" reported that the troops dubbed Bowman "Better Off With Map And Nokia". [ [ UK makes complete FIST of hi-tech soldiering | The Register ] ]

The programme came under scrutiny following an National Audit Office accountability hearing for the government's procurement policy and was generally considered to be a success considering the complexity and changing needs of the UK Armed Forces. [ [ UK National Audit Office press notice - Ministry of Defence. Delivering digital tactical communications through the Bowman CIP programme ] ]

However a more recent report by the Commons Public Accounts Committee was overwhelmingly critical of the entire system and its procurement. [ [ Public Accounts Committee report] ] The report itself is split into four sections entitled: "programme governance arrangements were not fit for purpose", "initial decisions were not well informed" "through life costs were not rigorously assessed", and "operational benefits are limited".

Recently, as Bowman was being phased into service, senior officers in the British Army had serious reservations about the system, especially as many of their initial design specifications and feedback had not been adequately incorporated by the Defence Procurement Agency in the re-tendering process that was won by General Dynamics United Kingdom Ltd. Such were the misgivings, the Director of Infantry initially refused to accept the portable "manpack" radio into service, saying:

"All the rumours you've heard. It is as bad as you've heard. But we have been told that, politically, we have got to make it work. Now you guys will have to go out and find a way of making it work."

Other complaints were brought up by the 1st Bn Royal Anglians who tested the UK/PRC354 radio system in July 2005. A number of problems have been reported, including radiation burns received while transmitting data on some settings, comparatively heavy compared to equivalent Clansman radio sets, unergonomic wiring and user interfaces on the manpack radio, short-lived batteries, inadequate "ruggedisation" and inflexibility with assigning unique call sign indicators to individuals which are now instead permanently programmed into the radios themselves instead of the Clansman BATCO assigned system, which would change every 12 hours and could be used on any number of different radio sets by the operator as required. This has led to seven modifications to the radio since the operational field trial in December 2004. [ [;sessionid=X1XC4TZXRMCUFQFIQMGSNAGAVCBQWJVC?xml=/news/2005/01/04/narmy04.xml&sSheet=/portal/2005/01/04/ixportal.html News - Telegraph ] ] However there have been further more recent reports of the radios continuing to suffer from the already mentioned design flaws as well as operational failures and faults, including whilst in the midst of combat engagements, consequently hampering the combat effectiveness with soldiers deployed on both Operation Herrick in Afghanistan and Operation TELIC in Iraq, [ [ House of Commons - Defence - Written Evidence ] ] leading to accusations that the system is not yet ready for operational use and in some cases the current revision may be unsuitable for its intended purpose, including its role as part of the Future Integrated Soldier Technology concept. []


External links

* [ Army Overview of Bowman]
* [ The Bowman system is described on this UK MOD site]
* [ The Register: MPs: UK defence project was crap]
* [;sessionid=X1XC4TZXRMCUFQFIQMGSNAGAVCBQWJVC?xml=/news/2005/01/04/narmy04.xml&sSheet=/portal/2005/01/04/ixportal.html Daily Telegraph: £1.9 bn portable radio system gets a poor reception from Army]

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