Adam Baddeley 
(Exclusive for IDC from Europe)

In May Racal Defence Electronics (RDE) announced further sales of its Cougarnet radio system to two Asian customers, one in South East Asia, the other from the Indian subcontinent. For both customers, this is the latest in a series of orders for the system. In January 1999, RDE announced a £5million contract for Cougarnet in the Indian Subcontinent, having already released details indicating the system had been chosen as a standard communications package for the customer in 1997. The country concerned has not been positively identified. Nonetheless there have been suggestions that India is the customer, and that Cougarnet is in use in Kashmir by Indian security forces. 

This latest acquisition from Racal is believed to be an emergency acquisition to improve communications after the Kargil crisis. Cougarnet is marketed as suitable for paramilitary, police and Special Forces and has generated sales of over £150 million. The radio is widely used by the Dutch Police Force and the British Army uses the Cougar 2000 in some weapons simulators. The basis for the Cougarnet are the Talkthrough stations – relay stations – the area of operations these can cover is undisclosed but will be dependent on terrain. The Cougarnet’s Talkthrough stations are radio amplifiers called SMT radios. These stations can be inter-connected to create an integrated ‘all-informed’ network which is limited only by the number of stations available. Size is important, the stations are sufficiently small and robust to be operated from a vehicle, boat or aircraft. Both mobile and static Talkthrough stations can expect to be sited and used in high risk or inaccessible areas such as the top of buildings or on other geographic features, sometimes unguarded. Full remote control can be obtained through an Extended Control Unit (ECU) connected to the system controller the Outstation Link Control Unit which can co-ordinate operations. 

The hand held radio transceiver for the SMT derived nets is the Cougarnet Personal Radio. The unit is compact (213 mm H x75mm W x 30 mm D) and easy to use, designed to be used even in the dark and when wearing gloves. An audible sound is made when the unit is not working correctly to alert the operator to any problems. The system has ten user-programmable channels allowing several networks to be accessed quickly. An integral encryption module can also be installed. In addition a ‘zeroise’ function can be used to erase frequency settings if necessary in an emergency. The system is relatively low cost and is designed to be simple to operate and maintain. The weight of the personal radio is 750g, the SMT only 2.8kg. The former’s small size allows it to be used covertly. The personal radio uses a 10V Nickel Cell cassette, the SMT can use a variety of power suppliers such as a 12V battery for man portable mobile operations, 12/24V vehicle electrical power supply or a mains power supply for static relay stations. 
The Cougarnet operates in either the VF or UHF bands at 68-88MHz, 132-174MHz and 403-470MHz. The radios can use either analogue speech or 16kbits/second digital speech, the radios automatically processes either type of traffic without need for engineering a change to the radio.

Chechen forces fighting Russia made great use of commercially available communications. They used civilian Motorola radios and operated six base relay stations during the conflict, which it is claimed, could cover up to a 100km radius. They allege that they could listen into their opponent’s tactical radio net, over 20 years old, with ease. This example illustrates the need for secure communications and the ease at which guerrilla forces can obtain cutting edge communications technology rapidly and cheaply. Another lesson learned by Russia was the need for an improved Electronic Warfare capability to locate and/or jam communications effectively. It is not believed that Russia can develop either technology to an acceptable level domestically.

Racal Electronics, RDE’s parent company, is currently being acquired by French company Thomson CSF for £1.34billion. The deal is due for completion in the Summer of this year.

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