Tactical change of Tune – Asian Military Review

Singapore ACMS – Singapore’s Advanced Combat Man System (ACMS) uses Selex SSR+ communications technology. (credit: Singapore Army)

The challenge of upgrading to software-defined radios will reduce the need to overcome traditional hardware upgrade issues for Asian militaries.

Tactical radio technology is becoming increasingly capable and sophisticated, with the industry pushing for more sophisticated and integrated packages. But for Asian defense forces, the most important features continue to be compatibility, weight, ease of operation and cost.

Regional users also have different requirements, given the wide range of operating environments from the dense greenery of the jungles of Southeast Asia to the vast mountain ranges of the Himalayas. In addition, compatibility becomes more important with military operations and training conducted in coalitions. However, these efforts are hampered by legacy products that must be included, as well as several competing integration standards.

Radio-based communications can also be unreliable with environmental and technical challenges impacting performance. Tactical networks for voice, data, and video communications can be versatile and reliable, but the lack of international standards in the communications architecture introduces several challenges, especially with aging legacy systems that are not designed to connect to modern data-capable Internet Protocol ( IP ) networks.

Regional forces are also beginning to adopt software-defined radios (SDRs), which not only allow additional capabilities to be added through software updates rather than replacing hardware, but also allow those forces to develop custom waveforms for improved security. Interoperability between radios is potentially enhanced as the same waveform software can be adapted to other SDR systems within the same standard.


Soldiers of the Indonesian Army (Tentara Nasional Indonesia-Angkatan Darat, or TNI-AD) are usually equipped with a tactical hand-held or hand-held radio during military operations.

Notable radios in service include Associated Industries’ venerable AN/PRC 77 handpiece system, although this is being phased out for newer systems; Alkom LRT-07H and LRT-08H (3 to 30MHz); and the General Dynamics URC-200 (V2), which is used by the Paskhas Special Operations Units of the Indonesian Air Force (TNI-AL) for forward air control (FAC).

Meanwhile, the Indonesian Marine Corps (Korps Marinir) is believed to operate the Saab Systems Grintek (SSG) TR2400, which is part of SSG’s tactical HF communications product range; which has been developed to meet the demands of today’s digital battlefield. The TR2400 HF SSB transceiver covers 1.6 to 29.9999MHz and is primarily used for long range reconnaissance patrols by military and paramilitary forces. The transceiver provides the user with voice and data communications for handheld applications as well as base station and vehicle installations. Micro/DSP technology is designed to provide configuration flexibility and a ready upgrade path. The TR2400 is also reported to have been delivered to the Bangladesh Armed Forces, where it replaced the AN/PRC-77.

Indonesia is also pursuing indigenous SDR technology with defense performance PT Len producing VDR10-MP SDR is 10 watts (20 W PEP max) VHF handheld. The radio covers the frequency range 30-88MHz with a data transmission rate of 16 kbit/s. About 734 units are believed to have been ordered for the military, with deliveries beginning in late 2015.


The Indian Army currently maintains the Army Radio Engineering Network (AREN), which is a protected HF system operated at the brigade level.

Indigenously developed FH radios with integrated encryption devices have been commissioned at squad level and above in recent years. These include the LVP 275 VHF FH handheld radio, the LVP 285 and 333 VHF handheld radios (136-174MHz and 30-88MHz respectively) and the LUP 291 secure Ultra High Frequency (UHF) handheld radio, which are manufactured by Bharat Electronics Ltd (BEL).

BEL has also developed a Secure Tactical Army VHF Radio System (STARS-V) in 5 and 25 W power configurations. The radio supports clear and secure voice communication and data modes. The latest STARS-V Mk II model has been developed to provide secure tactical VHF radio communication in contested electronic environments.

According to BEL, the STARS-V Mk II operates in the frequency band of 30,000 to 87.975MHz with 2320 channels and 25kHz channel spacing. The radio can be configured as a hand-held station with a suitable beam, an automotive installation or as a low power static station, some of these systems are believed to have entered service with the Indian Armed Forces.

The country is also looking to field next-generation portable and hand-held SDRs to enhance its network-centric warfare capabilities. The specified requirements include a ground-to-ground communication range of over 3 km for hand-held systems, while radios must have a range of over 10 km. The Indian Paramilitary Forces are now operating the MaxTech Savion SDR radio.


The Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) largely use the PRC-940A VHF handpack and AHF-130 for HF communications, with some legacy PRC 640 VHF/HF dual-band radios believed to still be in service.

Communication devices are usually assigned at squad level and above with a specially trained signaller attached to the squad. More may be applied depending on the mission. However, specialized infantry units equipped with the Advanced Combat Man System (ACMS) array of soldiers receive individual Selex SSR+ systems.

The SAF revealed that they have operationalized a Software Defined Radio (SDR) capability with the vehicle-borne and static Rockwell Collins-Thales FlexNet-One system, which is now an essential part of their Army Battlefield Internet System. Efforts are believed to be underway to introduce compatible SDR handheld radios.

The Philippines

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has traditionally relied on American systems for its tactical communications needs. Notable tactical communications systems acquired prior to 2010 include Harris Corporation’s Falcon II RF-5800H-MP (export variant AN/PRC-150); Falcon II RF-5800V. Post-2010 acquisitions include the Falcon RF-7800V VHF Combat Net Handheld Radio.

Harris Falcon III Rucksack – Harris Corporation has achieved considerable popularity in Asia, with the Armed Forces of the Philippines being a regular customer of its tactical radio systems. (credit: Harris Corporation)

It is also a known operator of Israeli-made systems with Tadiran (now Elbit) supplying tactical radios worth U$8 million to the AFP in 2002. However, the type of radios supplied has not been disclosed.

Harris Corporation announced in February 2016 that it had secured a $12 million order to provide the AFP with Harris Falcon III tactical vehicle radios, intercom systems and handheld radios. The company will provide the Light Armored Division of the Philippine Army with the Falcon RF-7800V Combat Net Radio integrated into the RF-7800I Intercom Systems, as well as the Falcon RF-7800V Handheld VHF Combat Net Radio for general Army use.

“These radios will provide soldiers in the Philippine Army with advanced command and control and real-time awareness capabilities,” Brendan O’Connell, president, tactical communications, Harris Communication Systems, said in a statement. “They will also have secure interoperability with the more than 15,000 Harris Falcon radios currently operating within the AFP.”

In late 2017, funding was provided for the additional acquisition of 3,185 units of 5W VHF handheld radios valued at PHP678 million and 150 units of 20W VHF handheld radios valued at $4.35 million. Also funded was the Philippine Navy’s C4ISTAR project for an unspecified number of 5W VHF handheld radios worth $5.7 million. These as yet unspecified radios will be supplied by Harris Corporation under a Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program with the US government.

Other Asian countries

The Royal Thai Army (RTA) operates the venerable AN/PRC25 and AN/PRC77 VHF/FM radios, as well as the Tadiran AN/PRC 624 VHF/FM and CNR-900 VHF (30-88MHz) station. The early PRC-1099 HF radio system was also used at the battalion level. Sources said radios are usually issued at platoon level and above, but troops responsible for security may also be equipped with situational awareness communication devices.

Royal Cambodian Army (RCA) Tactical Communications Systems and Doctrine. The service is primarily light infantry that relies on foreign aid/supplied equipment. Understandably, much of RCA’s current equipment is Chinese and Soviet-era vintage.

In 2016, China donated highway, two-way radio communication system equipment along with over 1,400 two-way radio headsets. The type remains unknown, but sources suggest they may be PRC-7501 Frequency Hopping (FH) VHF handheld radios, which operate in the 30 to 87.975MHz range and are interoperable with various handheld and vehicle VHF radios.

Japan manufactures its own radio equipment, with no known exports currently occurring. The country’s standard backpack is the JPRC-F70, manufactured by Mitsubishi, and widely used by the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force (JGSDF).

JGSDF Radio – Japan’s Defense Forces rely on indigenously developed tactical radios. (credit: US Air Force)

While much of the local development remains under wraps, the US federal requests refer to what appears to be an advanced software-defined radio (SDR) network called the Broadband Multipurpose Wireless System, which has already been in place since 2015.

Japan’s NEC Corporation has also developed what it calls a “Field Communications System” for the JGSDF. This includes a Type I (Handheld) Mobile Radio and a Type II (Handheld) Mobile Radio. They are said to be able to handle voice and data communications. The Type I mobile hand-held radio appears to be assigned to squad leader and above.

The South Korean firm LIG Nex1 produces the operational PRC-999K VHF CNR, as well as the smaller but incompatible PRC-96K, for the ROK military. The PTRC-999K is a VHF/FM Combat Network Radio (CNR) designed for voice and data applications. According to the company, the low-power broadband equipment offers more channels than conventional VHF/FM CNRs. LIG Nex1 also developed the PRC-999KE, a smaller and lighter version of the original radio with improved VHF performance, extended battery life and built-in GPS.

The country is also benefiting from SDR technology through the LIG Nex1 Tactical Multi-Mode Radio (TMMR) effort as part of the broader Tactical Information Communications Network (TICN) transformation program. TICN brings together expertise from LIG Nex1, Huneed Technology and SamsungThalesJV (now Hanwha Systems) to develop the future tactical communications infrastructure for the Army and Marine Corps and is expected to replace large amounts of legacy CNRs that set TMMR by 2020.

The Sri Lanka Army (SLA) grew rapidly from 1983 to 2009 during the civil war against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) insurgency in the north of the country, prompting the government to update some of SLA equipment to deal with the threat.

The country is known to operate a Turkish ASELSAN PRC-9600 VHF radio. Meanwhile, the Special Infantry Operations Teams (SIOTs), which have been at the forefront of past combat operations with the LTTE, are believed to be equipped with indigenously developed HF radios with extended antennas that increase the useful range to 54 km, against a potential of 45 km on unmodified systems.

from JR Ng

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