Recently, the U.S. Government approved release of the Collins Aerospace PRC-162, to the member nations of the Five Eyes intelligence alliance.
The alliance, consisting of Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States, which is a mutual agreement to share signals intelligence that dates back to the Second World War, has been known as one of the most comprehensive intelligence sharing apparatuses in the world today.
The ability to share advanced communications technology like these manpack systems is particularly significant in this context because it helps facilitate that close collaboration.
If the Five Eyes are all using communications equipment that are all similarly secure and interoperate with each other, using the same standards and waveforms, it facilitates sharing highly classified information with one another with less worry that the information could be intercepted or otherwise disrupted.
What this announcement also shows is that this level of information sharing filters all the way down to the tactical level. Establishing security at this level of communication, in fact, has been an area of concern for theater-level commanders for years because the Five Eyes’ military forces often deploy together into conflict zones.
What’s more, the release of this technology also indicates crucial changes in what the Five Eyes’ militaries are demanding in their communications gear because, like the United States, the other members of the Five Eyes need to modernize to prepare for the increasingly networked battlefield of the future.
And by and large, Five Eyes members are looking for similar characteristics in their tactical communications systems modernization programs, which include the Canadian TacComMod, British Morpheus and Australian Land 200 Tranche 3 programs.
“The Canadian Army is in the middle of a transformation,” Geoff Blair, a Business Director at Collins Aerospace, and who is leading efforts on the Canadian TacComMod program, told us. A “key aspect of these efforts will be fielding equipment that can operate on legacy waveforms and that are flexible enough to accommodate new waveforms,” in part so that it’s easier for Five Eyes militaries to “converge” and interoperate when their forces are deployed in the same battlespace.
Moreover, the British and Australian programs demand similar capabilities, according to David Beckett and David Johnson, both of whom are subject matter experts at Collins Aerospace, specializing in the British and Australian markets, respectively.
“Across a number of our modernization programs, we are seeing a need for systems like the ones that were just cleared for export – that can handle multiple channels, multiple waveforms, and multiple classification levels simultaneously,” Johnson elaborated.
And the need for the modernization that this release covers—and what will be subsequent member-by-member export approvals—is a matter of some urgency.
The current system supplying the British land signals environment has been in service for 20 years, and “many of the radios [in use today] are ten years older than that,” Beckett commented, echoing a concern heard across the member states.
“Modern military forces need to reflect the significant increase in data usage on the modern battlefield,” Beckett continued, “something that legacy radios, which cannot handle that bandwidth, make more difficult.”