Defence trials long-distance HF wireless data comms

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Defence trials long-distance HF wireless data comms
Source: ADF.

Tested as alternative to narrow-band satellite communications.

The Australian Defence Force is trialling wideband high frequency radio technology for IP data transfers of voice, messaging, photos and videos, as a backup for its existing narrowband satellite communications.

The ADF is utilising equipment from United States communications company Rockwell Collins for the WBHF tests, which form part of the Royal Australian Air Force's 'Plan Jericho' upgrade program.

During the trials last week, Defence technicians transferred pictures and colour video over the air using long distance IP communications links between several ADF sites.

According to an ADF spokesperson, the testing included setting up links between Defence high frequency communications system sites at Riverina and Townsville (a distance of 1764 km); RAAF Edinburgh to Townsville (1897 km); from the HMAS Harman comms and logistics facility to Townsville (1804 km); and others.

Testing was also done with a Lockheed Martin AP-3C Orion aircraft at RAAF Edinburgh.

The spokesperson told iTnews the IP links utilise radio spectrum in the high frequency (HF) band, between 3 and 30 MHz. Up to 48 kHz of bandwidth can be used, which provides a maximum speed of 240 kilobits per second.

Rockwell Collins VHSM 5000 transceiver modems were used at the DHFCS Riverina and Townsville sites. Experimental variants of Rockwell Collins RT-2200 HF receiver/exciters were used on board the Orion at RAAF Edinburgh, and in the field at HMAS Harman, the spokesperson said.

The comms links select HF frequencies, bandwidth and data rates using the digital automatic link establishment (ALE) standard, with the IP connections being managed by United States Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command-developed HFIP controllers.

ADF's HF data radio comms tech follows the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) military standardisation agreement (STANAG) 5066 protocol.

Although the performance of HF radio varies greatly depending on environmental factors such as ionospheric conditions, time of the day, weather, topography and solar flare activity as well as the system power and set up, communications can potentially be achieved over very long distances.

"Appropriate selection of system variables to account for existing environmental and ionospheric conditions can potentially propagate HF waves over many thousands of kilometres," the spokesperson said.

"The technology is intended to provide an alternate means of IP-based beyond line-of-sight communications when narrow-band satellite communications are impacted by anti-access/area denial techniques (A2/AD)."

Apart from RAAF, the testing involved units from the Navy and Army, as well as the Defence chief information officer group (CIOG).

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