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No Stones, But a Novel Battle

September 2000
By Clarence A. Robinson, Jr.

Classic encounter looms between a shrewd Israeli company and larger challengers over Finland’s army radios.

A David and Goliath rematch is shaping up in Northern Europe over the next few weeks. This time, however, there are several Goliaths, and no one will be using a sling. All opponents are armed equally with the latest technological advances, and the contest is in one of the giants’ own backyards. Two other titans wait in the wings.

In this modern-day version of the epic battle, David is a relatively small company from Holon, Israel—Tadiran Communications Limited—that specializes in the latest innovations for combat network radios. One of the giants is Thomson-CSF, a huge French company that owns subsidiaries or industrial bases in 28 nations and builds highly regarded battlefield command, control and communications (C3) systems.

The two other large rivals involved are U.S.-based Harris Corporation, Rochester, New York, and ITT Communications, Fort Wayne, Indiana. All of the contestants build sought-after multiband, multimission state-of-the-art radio systems designed for the warfighter.

In this current matchup, Tadiran Communications and its competitors are seeking a contract to provide a digital backbone network for Finland’s army. The Israeli company is paired with Denmark’s Terma Elektronik AS in Lystrup. Hezi Hermoni, Tadiran Communications’ president and chief executive officer, believes this team could have an important advantage: The two companies have a business relationship of more than 13 years, working on a variety of C3 programs in Europe.

Other Finish army contract rivals also have strong Northern European ties, especially Thomson-CSF, which operates with a subsidiary in Norway. As another example, in late June, Harris Corporation was awarded an $8.4 million contract to supply its Falcon II RF-5800 high frequency (HF) radio systems and RF-6710W wireless message terminals to the Danish army’s materiel command. Hermoni knows, however, that when it comes to technical advantages, corporate size is relative. Tadiran Communications is advocating its new CNR-9000 series of frequency hopping radios for the initial $30 million phase of the Finish army program. “We plan to leverage this radio in Europe and compete against Thomson-CSF,” Hermoni shares. During a recent interview at Eurosatory 2000 near Paris, he discloses that Thomson-CSF is his company’s Goliath in the European marketplace.

Terma is just one example of Tadiran Communications’ partnerships with European companies to enhance its regional position, Hermoni indicates. In all of these ventures, Tadiran Communications supplies C3 and computer systems. He makes it clear that his company considers the CNR-9000 to be an important breakthrough in modern radio communications. In use with the Israeli army, the CNR-9000 also is employed with the armies of four other nations under contracts totaling more than $70 million. Hermoni declines to name those nations because of customer sensitivities.

With 550 employees in Tel Aviv, Tadiran Communications’ annual revenues are approximately $150 million, of which it invests about $10 million a year for internal research and development. The Israeli Ministry of Defense provides roughly another $10 million each year for government-sponsored research. There is also a 120-employee subsidiary, called Talla-Com Industries Incorporated, in the United States. Located in Tallahassee, Florida, Talla-Com is managed as an independent company, making its own decisions and investing in its own research and development, Hermoni insists.

Tadiran Communications’ proprietary power amplifier and frequency hopping component make the company a single-source supplier for some programs. A U.S. Navy contract with the company calls for providing a digital mobile radio and a wideband, frequency hopping system. A similar multimode, wideband prototype radio is being delivered to the U.S. Army for evaluation. In these radios, the power amplifier is a critical element, Hermoni emphasizes. “The magic of the CNR-9000 radio is its compatibility with the current generation of equipment, while offering a gateway to future communications.”

Hermoni describes the evolution of technology as one in which radios increasingly grow smaller but must have expanded functions. The CNR-9000, which at 3 kilograms (6.6 pounds) is half the weight and about half the size of its predecessor CNR-900, reflects this trend, he observes. Nevertheless, the radio is designed so that the central processing unit can be periodically changed as technology advances without having to change other components.

“Armies cannot afford to buy a new generation of radios every five years, so what we are doing is building a radio that can use the same basic platform while changing software and components such as PC boards. You will not have to replace such things as the mother board or alter the man-machine interface,” Hermoni reports. “Change a circuit card and improve the radio; this is our philosophy.”

Calling the CNR-9000 a flagship system for very high frequency (VHF) frequency modulation (FM) communications, Hermoni points out that his miniature radio carries additional features and important capabilities deemed essential for the modern battlefield, “driven by real-world combat experience.” Designed specifically for tactical network use, the CNR-9000 is fully compatible with the company’s CNR-900, while offering an extended VHF band of 30- to 108-megahertz programmable digital transmission waveforms and 100 preset channels. Optional built-in components include a global positioning system (GPS) receiver, vocoder and a tactical communications controller.

The new radio uses a powerful encryption algorithm and electronic counter countermeasures through frequency hopping. The unit is capable of reliable, high-speed data transmission at rates of up to 32 kilobits per second. The CNR-9000 also provides error detection and correction codes, automatic data rate and type adaptation. The error correction and advanced digital modulation schemes provide simultaneous voice and data communications, Hermoni claims.

Digital data synchronous and asynchronous communications are at 50 to 9,600 bits per second with error correction. Transmissions are at 16 and 32 kilobits per second without error correction and at 19.2 kilobits per second asynchronous with and without error correction. A flash mode provides very short data transmissions with minimum delay. Other functions include a flash orthogonal frequency hopping mode and selective calling or selective barring.

Tadiran Communications also offers the CNR-9000’s companion, the HF-6000, an advanced multiadaptive high-data-rate, high frequency radio system. This radio eliminates the traditional problems associated with HF-band communications through a selective calling mechanism. Hermoni describes the company’s own technology as the AutoCall system, which works in parallel with an automatic link establishment (ALE), “according to American standards. We use software to implement both techniques.”

The ALE is used for real-time frequency management and is fully compatible with the company’s earlier HF-2000 radio system, Hermoni states. This multiadaptive function, new-generation, lightweight HF-6000 radio uses real-time selection of the best channel frequency along with full-band frequency hopping.

Hermoni notes that the HF-6000 uses active digital squelch to mute annoying noise that is traditionally associated with HF communications. This feature eliminates false alarms and misdirection and supports connections to vehicular intercom systems and to HF-VHF relay stations.

An optional function is a built-in, high-rate modem for data transmissions. Error correction techniques and correction codes assure optimum modem use, Hermoni recounts. Optional built-in communications security scrambles voice communications in the frequency, time and phase domains. Data and burst communications are digitally encrypted at the internal level, providing stringent security, he asserts. Advanced circuitry in the HF-6000 enables frequency hopping over the entire frequency band, supporting full selection of suitable propagating frequencies—adaptive frequency hopping. This function aids in more reliable and successful operations in dense jamming environments.

Maximum use of commercial technologies is a Tadiran Communications prerequisite in radio systems, whenever possible, Hermoni clarifies. He cites the use of Internet protocol (IP) and signal processing technologies as examples. “Whatever we find [in commercial technology], we incorporate in a radio; we are very flexible and very fast. By doing this, we try to maintain a faster pace than our competitors. In using IP-based telecommunications, supported by commercial technologies, we have developed a fully integrated, seamless IP system for real-time situational awareness on the modern digital battlefield.”

This fully defined tactical internet system integrates a seamless transmission control protocol/IP-based communications network for voice, data, e-mail, telephony, facsimile, cellular and video media, Hermoni maintains. The system also provides for full remote-control monitoring and maintenance, operating efficiently at any level of long-distance communications: land, sea and air, he assures.

Another Israeli company seeking to penetrate the European marketplace is Azimuth Technologies, located at Raanana, 12 kilometers (7.5 miles) north of Tel Aviv. With some success in delivering night sights, infrared cameras and laser rangefinders to Turkey, this privately held company offers target location and weapons allocation systems for anti-tank guided missiles, artillery and mortars, Avi Peleg says. He is Azimuth’s vice president for marketing. With 130 employees, the company has annual revenues of approximately $20 million.

Among this company’s latest technology offerings is the Comet system, a satellite-based targeting and navigation unit for use with main battle tanks and other turreted combat vehicles. The system dramatically reduces human firing errors, Peleg insists. Comet tracks data from several satellites simultaneously. Using a proprietary algorithm, this system calculates the turret and gun azimuth and the vehicle’s own location. Built-in inertial backup and a built-in tilt sensor package allow for three-axis calculations, he confirms.

The combination of these different and autonomous sensors enables reliable, accurate and available real-time continuous data. An optical fiber gyroscope also can be integrated into Comet to significantly increase targeting data when operating in obstructed terrain and for use if the GPS is jammed. Comet achieves an accuracy of 0.5 degrees, with an option for up to ±3 milliradians. Using a unique combination of technologies and algorithms, this new system compensates for typical error sources such as pitch, roll and yaw.

Azimuth’s systems can be used from platoon to regimental levels to direct fire and acquire enemy targets. Once a target is located and identified as hostile, the sensor systems take over. The company’s Atlas LT product is a lightweight tripod-mounted target acquisition system that uses a goniometer, with a built-in computer and optional modem. This target acquisition system is designed for forward observer missions. The system’s accuracy is ±1 milliradian in both azimuth and elevation, Peleg comments.

The goniometer uses Azimuth’s proprietary tactical software and an astronomical north-finding module. This system also supports the user’s preferred laser rangefinder, laser target designator and observation devices—binoculars, night-vision goggles, television and forward looking infrared. Atlas LT speeds up fire support requests, multiplying the impact of firepower, according to Peleg. A common language between the forward observer and firing platforms is inherent in the system. Target coordinates can be precisely replicated at any firing platform, gun, mortar or attack helicopter.

Target solutions—coordinates, type of shell and firing scheme—are communicated to a firing platform via wireless digital equipment simply by pressing a button.

SLIK is Azimuth’s target location and allocation system for anti-tank guided missiles such as TOW. This system enables mobile use of TOWs to employ hunter-killer tactics by stalking tanks instead of having to wait for the armor to arrive at a prepared position, Peleg illustrates. SLIK uses a tactical computer, integral GPS receiver and compass for navigation. A mechanical interface and boresight retention mechanism are also part of the package. An integral communications module and proprietary software modem support any VHF or HF radio, he adds. These elements interface with an accurate day and night laser rangefinder to deliver precise targeting information.

Individual missile launchers acting sporadically can use SLIK to function as a team and speed up weapon assignment and time on target. The system’s use in target allocation and planning means fewer missiles are necessary to destroy more tanks. A unified communications language is created for the battlefield based on target coordinates from SLIK and the other Azimuth fire support systems, Peleg concludes.