Tag Archives: Military Communications

An HF “Renaissance”: Militaries reinvests in shortwave communications

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributors Michael Guerin and Dennis Dura who share the following story from C4ISR.net (my comments follow excerpt):

LONDON — Special operations commands across Europe are ramping up their capabilities with high-frequency communications to ensure connectivity on the battlefield. Leaders there are turning to high frequency communications as a way to optimize properties that provide a low probability of interception and detection.

Special forces in France, Germany, Poland and Ukraine continue to receive high-frequency, or HF, systems as a way to diversify communications plans, industry sources confirmed to C4ISRNET.

Some special operations organizations have selected L3Harris’ AN/PRC-160(V), industry sources said.

Enhancements in HF come at a time when NATO members and partner forces are suffering from a disruption of satellite communications, particularly along the alliance’s eastern flank where Russian armed forces continue to conduct electronic warfare.

In an online presentation to the Association of Old Crows on Aug. 6, Paul Denisowski, product management engineer at Rohde and Schwarz North America, described how communications satellites are vulnerable to antisatellite systems as well as ground-, air- and space-based “kill vehicles.”

“China, Russia and the U.S. have all carried out ASAT tests and many other countries are developing ASAT capabilities,” Denisowski said, using an acronym for anti-satellite. To boost resilience, some commands are turning to high-frequency communications.

During the presentations “Lost Art of HF” and the “Rebirth of Shortwave in a Digital World,” Denisowski explained that HF is making a comeback in local and global communications. This renaissance comes as the result of improvements in a range of fields, including antenna design, digital modulation schemes and improved understanding of propagation.

The market is also helped by reductions in size, weight and power requirements as well as the introduction of wideband data, enhanced encryption algorithms and interoperability with legacy HF sets, he said.

“This means end users are now benefiting from easier-to-use and cheaper solutions featuring improved data performance, audio quality, availability and operation. And because of a lack of infrastructure, HF is less expensive and relatively robust, although solar events may temporarily disrupt HF communications,” he said. Specific upgrades include “Adaptive HF,” which comprises automatic selection of frequency and the establishment of communication through automatic link establishment, or ALE, technology.

The latest technology of its type — 4G ALE — is capable of supporting wideband HF communications, or WBHF for short, providing end users with the ability to “negotiate bandwidth, modulation type, error correction and the number of sub-carriers,” Denisowski explained.

“ALE selects frequencies using link quality analysis, which allows it to listen and determine if a channel is in use and adapt if conditions change,” he said.

He added that HF can now support data rates up to 240 kilobytes per second on a 48-kilohertz channel, particularly useful for more robust communications in hostile environments.

“WBHF has already [been] used in military trials. It’s a technology which is most definitely here and now,” Denisowski said.

[…]The report explained how the U.S. Army and European NATO partners explored such scenarios during a series of joint exercises in 2019 and 2020. “A new need arrives for alternative communication skills, justified through the increasing vulnerability from SATCOM jamming as well as the potential failure of SATCOM as a result of attacks on spacecraft or through the use of anti-satellite surface-to-air missiles,” the report’s author, Jan Pätzold, told C4ISRNET. “The development of alternative skills is important to reduce dependence on SATCOM.”

According to Pätzold, so-called Skywave HF, which bounces signals off the ionosphere, enables beyond line-of-sight communications across “thousands of kilometers” without requirements. HF communications is also ideally suited to supporting local network coverage. “This offers advantages over SATCOM in urban areas, but also in mountainous areas or far north latitudes where no line of sight to existing satellites is possible,” Pätzold said

Click here to read the full story at C4ISR.net.


My comment: What’s old is new again

As I’ve said in previous posts:

The shortwaves–which is to say, the high-frequency portion of the radio spectrum–will never disappear, even though international broadcasters may eventually fade into history. I often think of the shortwave spectrum as a global resource that will always be here, even if we humans are not. But on a brighter note, I expect the shortwave spectrum will be used for centuries to come, as we implement various technologies that find ways to make use of the medium.

HF communications require so little infrastructure to be effective. It’s a global communications medium that carries messages and data at the speed of light with no regard for national borders. Sure, there are reliability issues with HF propagation, but even amateur radio enthusiasts employ weak-signal digital modes that almost seem to defy propagation. I’m certain with the backing of the military, even more robust digital modes will be used (above and beyond ALE).

Even the business world sees opportunity. Case in point: we’ve seen stock traders set up point-to-point HF communications to edge out their competitors who rely on fiber optics.

HF systems are more durable and easier to harden to endure times of intense space weather events that affect our sat networks as well.

But then again, I’m preaching to the choir.

Spread the radio love

First Brigade Combat Team: Legacy HF comms provide “unlimited range with zero cost or resources”

(Source: DVIDS via Kim Elliott)

Photo By Staff Sgt. James Avery | Capt. Luke Reese, commander of C Company, 7th Brigade Engineer Battalion, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (LI), successfully transmitted a 300-mile high frequency voice and data radio check to West Point, May 3, 2018

Going the Distance! 1BTC Uses HF Radio to Go Far and Wide

FORT DRUM, NY, UNITED STATES
05.03.2018
Story by Capt. Ed Robles
1st Brigade Combat Team,10th Mountain Division (LI)

FORT DRUM, New York (May 3, 2018)–Captain Luke Reese, commander of C Company, 7th Brigade Engineer Battalion, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (LI), successfully transmitted a 300-mile high frequency voice and data radio check to West Point while spearheading a new program to boost tactical communications from Fort Drum. Maj. Gen. John Baker, Commanding General, U.S. Army Network Enterprise Technology Command, observed the radio check from West Point.

In an effort to renew some looked-over radio options, Reese opened the possibility of HF long-range capabilities.

“This is something we’ve been working on,” said Reese. “Dusting off some of this old equipment that hasn’t been used in years and use it as a relevant back-up plan.”

Leveraging high frequency is a skill that hasn’t been prioritized in the Army in recent years. The Army uses frequency modulation and ultra-high frequency tactical satellite, which have benefits, but are also limited.

“HF presents some challenges because making this network functional requires some level of experience… there’s really an art to it,” said Maj. Craig Starn, 1BCT S6 officer-in-charge. “The major benefit is it provides unlimited range with zero cost or resources required and no lead time is required to use the system.”

Reece’s efforts in HF strives to enhance the Army’s ability to maintain mission command while extending the brigade’s, or any unit’s, operational reach.

Click here to read at DVIDS.

Spread the radio love

Guam to California: CTF 75 successfully tests HF communications system

Electronics Technician 2nd Class Anthony Juarez and Electronics Technician 3rd Class Codie Flanagan, assigned to Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB)1, adjust frequency codes on a GRC-234 high-frequency base station at Naval Base Guam July 27, 2017. (Source: DVIDS)

(Source: Defense Video Imagery Distribution System)

NAVAL BASE GUAM , GUAM
08.04.2017
Story by Petty Officer 1st Class Torrey Lee
Commander, Task Force 75
Subscribe 5

Commander, Task Force (CTF) 75 successfully completed communications systems tests using high-frequency (HF) radio waves to broadcast voice and data 6,050 miles from Naval Base Guam to Port Hueneme, California, July 27, 2017.

The assessment tested the capabilities of expeditionary forces to use HF waves to deliver data over the Pacific. HF has become a viable alternative for military forces when more common forms of communication, such as satellites, are unavailable.

“In this particular back-up plan, we tested our ability to talk, and we were able to send text to one of our units that is across the Pacific Ocean,” said Lt. Cmdr. Timothy Carmon, a communications planner temporarily assigned to CTF-75. “The transmissions and receptions are not as fast as IP services, however we were still able to communicate in a timely manner with the distant end.”

Utilizing the assets of CTF-75’s Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 1, the command configured its antennae to broadcast to California. Once a successful voice transmission was received, communication directors at Navy Expeditionary Combat Command Pacific requested that CTF-75 try to send a data file.

“These data files allow us to save time,” said Electronics Technician 2nd Class Anthony Juarez, a communications supervisor assigned to NMCB 1. “We can send general diagrams, fire plans and points of interest. Instead of trying to verbally describe something, they [the recipient] have a graphic or a picture that gives them a better idea of the situation.”

Common communication devices used by the U.S. military incorporate satellites. CTF-75 has been testing HF systems in the case of satellite communication failure. HF is a frequency wave broadcast that is transmitted around the curvature of the Earth. Unlike other forms of frequencies, such as very-high frequencies and ultra-high frequencies, the transmission is not distorted by terrain or physical obstructions.

“We may not always have access to operational equipment or the latest assets, but as communicators we should have a backup plan that is ready to be executed,” said Carmon.

Guam is located in the western region of the Pacific. Having an HF range of 6,000 miles is equivalent to broadcasting from Japan to the U.S., or oppositely, from Japan to the middle of Africa. During this most recent test, CTF-75 was also able to establish communications with Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit 1 in Hawaii.

“We can hop our communications from island to island,” said Juarez. “This test gave us the opportunity to know we can push our system to the absolute max from Guam. There are definitely different systems out there, but our system is really efficient at long-range HF. As new radios are incorporated in the Navy expeditionary community, I have no doubt it will get faster, more reliable and easier to set up.”

CTF-75 is currently testing its communication abilities with subordinate commands which include Seabee units, riverine squadrons, cargo handlers, explosive ordnance disposal technicians, and expeditionary intelligence forces.

“This achievement was an important step in an effort to increase our capabilities to be prepared to execute missions in austere locations around the globe,” said Carmon. “Our expeditionary commanders may never need to communicate over a few thousand kilometers, but if the need arises our communicators will be able to provide the connection for that commander.”

CTF-75 is the primary expeditionary task force responsible for the planning and execution of coastal riverine operations, explosive ordnance disposal, diving engineering and underwater construction in the U.S. 7th fleet area of operations.

Read the full article at the DVIDS hub…

Spread the radio love

Shortwave Radio Recordings: EAM messages

StrategicAirCommand

Inspired by SWLing Post reader @K7al_L3afta, a few weeks ago, I monitored 15,016 kHz for US Air Force EAM (Emergency Action Messages).

I’m no expert on military communications, but I did manage to catch a few messages–that I assume are EAM(?)–on the same frequency.

All of these recordings were made on the afternoon of February 15, 2015 on 15,160 kHz in the upper sideband:

Recording 1

Recording 2

Recording 3

Recording 4

Spread the radio love