New Army Radios

Article excerpt

Describing his role with U.S. Army special operations forces during the opening phases of Operation Enduring Freedom (November 1, 2001-January 15, 2002), MSgt. Tim Stamey, U.S. Air Force retired, explains, "It was a 12-man ODA [operational detachment alpha]-A team. We split down into four-man teams and I went out up front every day with them because I was the forward air controller. After the second day, once the Northern Alliance allowed us to go up to where we could see and get beyond their line of troops, they could see what kind of bombing we could do. They quit fighting and just let us go and do what we wanted to do anyway, which was to do strategic reconnaissance-looking for targets, calling in air for them and then lasing. We bombed for seven hours straight," he said.

Stamey used a single AN/PRC-117F radio. "What was great about the 117F was that you had both wide band and narrow band," he continued. "At that time in the war our requested air frequency was narrow band only, unless we were in a dire situation and then we would flip over to wide band and contact the air operations center. We used it for SATCOM [satellite communications]. We also used it for some data. We also used the fox mike [FM] on it for inter-team communications, so I didn't have to carry an inter-team radio. All I had to carry was the one PRC-117F radio."

Along with their supporting tactical air controllers, U.S. Army units are also starting to enjoy the benefits of this versatile new communications platform. The PRC-117F is just one member of the Harris Corporation Falcon(TM) II software-based digital communications family that has recently entered U.S. Army service. The software-based Falcon(TM) II family shares commonality across the 30 to 60 MHz frequency band, enabling secure communications among all members of the product family.

The 117F is a multi-band, multi-mission, manpack radio that covers the entire 30 to 512 MHz frequencyrange while offering embedded COMSEC [communications security], SATCOM and ECCM [electronic counter-counter-measures] capabilities.

"The 117F has been in Army use for a couple of years but that use seems to be cresting up in recent months," noted Kevin Kane, Director of Business Development for Harris Corporation's RF Communications Division. "The great thing about the new radio is that it truly replaces three inventory radios. It has the capability of a SINCGARS radio, a PRC-113 Have Quick, and a DAMA radio. It has data capabilities in SATCOM that go up to 56 kilobits in two different modes. It also has a ground line of sight data capability up to 64 kilobits, where the state of the art for both of those has been 16 kilobits. So we're getting a virtual 4 times increase in data throughput in a very, very modern, affordable radio. All of those things are contained in this one radio. In addition, it has the embedded COMSEC. A lot of places and units still have a separate COMSEC box with cables going from the box to the radio. In the 117F the COMSEC capability is inside the radio. What you see is what you need," he said.

Kane is quick to clarify that the PRC-117F is just one of several excellent communications systems now in Army service. …