Spain's Electronics Gain Clout

September 2000
By Clarence A. Robinson, Jr.

Division-level tactical network integrates communications, command, control system platforms, combat vehicles.

Spain’s army is benefiting from information technology development by the nation’s domestic industry. A mesh system of nodal centers is being developed and deployed for mobile command, control and communications. Independent of terrain considerations, the multimedia voice and data system covers the operational area of an army division.

Two Spanish companies, both partially owned by French industry, are involved in electronics, sensors, avionics and information technology for the battlefield. Both companies are located in Madrid, and both pursue technologies in similar areas, but there are as many differences between them as there are similarities.

Amper Communications Group, one of the companies, has annual revenues of 36.5 million euros ($33 million) and is partially controlled by Thomson-CSF, which owns 49 percent of its stock. Amper employs approximately 260 people. Indra, the other corporation, operates with annual revenues of approximately $600 million. This company has more than 4,600 employees and derives about 40 percent of its revenue from the defense sector. Thomson-CSF owns approximately 10.5 percent of Indra’s stock. However, U.S.-based Raytheon holds close to 40 percent of Indra Electronic Weapons Systems, a subsidiary that competes in the international electronic warfare market.

Indra’s involvement in a project for the Peruvian defense ministry, along with a contract for development of that nation’s navy amphibious operations management system, is leading toward the development of a command and control system for the Peruvian army. In terms of electronic warfare systems, Indra’s contract awards from Spain are for both naval and terrestrial platforms.

Development of a new active electronic countermeasures system is complete, and contracts are underway for new Aldebaran and Elnath systems for Spanish navy ships. This company also has initial production orders for the European fighter aircraft self-defense system.

According to Pedro Mota, the company’s director of international defense, Indra produces sophisticated electronics for military detection, command and control, weapon control systems, space-based systems, simulation systems and automatic maintenance systems. He believes that the company’s work in sensors such as thermal cameras and radar is significant. Indra also is involved with Marconi in developing the radar and its gimbal system for the Eurofighter 2000.

Most of the Spanish army’s fire control systems for weapons such as the Leopard 2 main battle tank are from Indra, Mota relates. He adds that the company also supplies its thermal cameras for the tanks. “A three-dimensional radar is also being developed in collaboration with the Netherlands’ Signaal Corporation for anti-aircraft defense. The sensor’s design is for detecting and tracking very-low-flying aircraft out to a 20-kilometer [12-mile] range. Target information is immediately transmitted to the command post for fire coordination,” he continues.

In addition, the company provides an infantry radar called Arine, a portable medium-range ground surveillance sensor. Optimized for all-weather operations, this radar is for detection of targets that include personnel, vehicles and low-flying platforms such as helicopters, unmanned aerial vehicles and ultralights. The system provides precise data on each target, including coordinates, distance and bearing, Mota maintains. The applications of the sensor system are for forward observers, infantry and cavalry reconnaissance.

Arine is a pulse compression, fully coherent radar. The solid-state transmitter operates in J band (Ku). The antenna features a reflector with horn offset and selectable linear or circular polarization for reducing rain-induced clutter. The radar’s receiver is a double conversion superheterodyne with low noise and high dynamic range capabilities. The sensor’s digital processor provides Doppler processing by fast Fourier transform and controls the false alarm rate.

This portable radar can detect a crawling man at 3 kilometers (1.8 miles), a standing man at 10 kilometers (6 miles), a light vehicle at 20 kilometers (12 miles), a hovering helicopter at 8 kilometers (5 miles), a flying helicopter at 20 kilometers, and a heavy tank at 24 kilometers (15 miles), with target speeds from 3 kilometers per hour to 190 kilometers (118.8 miles) per hour.

The Arine weighs less than 42 kilograms (92 pounds) and is distributed in three loads. The system can be installed on a tripod or a vehicle. Mota says that the radar can be set up and be operational within two minutes by a trained operator. The sensor provides wide-area surveillance, acoustic and visual alarms and operates with high electronic counter countermeasures performance. Advanced techniques are used with the radar to avoid detection and interception. The discrete operation rests on low peak power and variable transmission frequencies.

Another three-dimensional radar for the Spanish air force is in production. This system is also marketed outside Spain; however, competition is fierce in this market from companies such as U.S.-based Lockheed Martin and Italy’s Alenia, Mota observes.

Another Indra product is the COAAAS, a short-range air-defense artillery semiautomatic operations center. Mota insists that the center can be adapted to any weapons system that does not require full integration between the system and the weapons. The radar is a frequency modulated/continuous wave system operating at 9 to 10 gigahertz for detection and identification of aircraft. The sensor, which evaluates threats and assigns weapons, features low radiated power, has a range of 20 kilometers, and uses a global positioning system receiver as well as a north sensor.

The electronic warfare prowess of Indra is an important part of the company, Mota emphasizes. Systems have been developed for air, land and sea platform applications, both active and passive, such as electronic support measures. Electronic intelligence systems from the company operate in both communications and radar bandwidths.

In concert with Thomson-CSF and Raytheon, Indra is developing an air-defense command and control system for both the Spanish army and air force as part of a European program. The acronym for this system is I-ARS. The Spanish air force air-defense system from Indra is an interim capability to be used until the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s (NATO’s) ARS becomes available, he reveals. “I-ARS is a very complicated air-defense system because it involves all of NATO.”

The military subsidiary of Amper Communications Group, Amper Programas, is developing and fielding a tactical area network system known by the Spanish acronym RBA. The major activity of this company is in the production of systems and equipment for tactical communications as well as command and control systems, according to José Angel Bear Sanz, a marketing and programs official for the company. “This includes what is today known as information systems.” More than half of the company’s work is in communications for the Spanish army, and about 25 percent of its work is for the Spanish air force. Command and control systems account for roughly a third of the business base.

Amper’s activity in information systems and communications encompasses very high and high frequency radios, systems integration and networks. “Two company products for the Spanish army include the RBA tactical area network and a separate command and control system that offers several levels of planning,” Sanz discloses. He recently conducted a demonstration of the battlefield management system’s technology near Paris, during Eurosatory 2000 at Le Bourget Airport.

Under an approximately $250 million, four-year Spanish army contract, Amper is providing vehicle equipment installation, integration of access nodes, subscriber nodes, radio access points and satellite communications nodes for the tactical area network system, according to Sanz.

“The battlefield management system’s model enables the use of various types of cartography, maps and photographs to provide a plan view of the battlespace in which the army expects to conduct combat operations,” Sanz assures. This system allows the selection of terrain in various countries and can introduce various control mechanisms such as phase lines, boundaries, axes of advance, and assignments of objectives to several battalions, he remarks. “This capability is useful at all levels and can also be used to plan and coordinate supporting fire and logistics.

“The RBA program has a data replication rate that is almost in real time through all levels of the army, from battalion to division, including combat vehicles and artillery units,” Sanz describes. The data transmission can be accomplished using X.25 packet techniques for large units or X400 with satellite communications. Orders are transmitted via very high frequency radio systems. “For the Spanish army, we are working with the Thomson-CSF PR4Gs, sending data transmissions through this radio system,” he relates.

“The communications in the RBA system meet North Atlantic Treaty Organization and European Communications [Eurocom] standards, and the equipment is designed so that Amper’s command and control systems are interoperable with the systems of other armies,” Sanz persists. The secure system’s operational requirements call for mobility, reliability and a high degree of survivability, he offers.

The tactical area network system functions with circuit-switching channels at 16 and 32 kilobits per second. Packet switching uses X.25. Subscribers can be semifixed or mobile for voice and data. This system provides trunk signaling in a separated channel (Eurocom) and loop signaling. Routing involves saturation, and network synchronization is plesiochronous to a high-stability clock. External interfaces include NATO networks, strategic and civil networks, an integrated services digital network primary rate access (PRA) at 2,048 kilobits per second, and X.25 networks with an X75 gateway.

The system automatically integrates with combat network radios through PR4Gs and manual radio or wire links. Other capabilities include a trunk via secure satellite communications—Spain’s HISPASAT. The system offers a trunk interface of 24 channels using the French Rita radio system. The services from the RBA program provide friendly and enemy situation planning, transmission network planning, frequencies and radio coverage calculation, whole network subscriber management, media management, and technical supervision of the network.

Most of Amper’s equipment and switches are from Thomson-CSF, and some of the radios are from Israel’s Tadiran, Mota explains. However, Amper developed all of the software, network controls and integration. Among the systems are a digital subscriber terminal, the TA-359, a digital two- or four-line telephone terminal with voice codifications at 16 or 32 kilobits per second, data Class 1 to 4 Eurocom D/1, and Class 5 as an add on. Data interface is with the synchronous or asynchronous RS 232, or RS 422 synchronous terminals. A multiple optical-line terminal unit, the MT-323, provides three channels from 256 to 2,048 kilobits per second (Eurocom B), three channels engineering order wire (EOW) and two data channels V10/V11.

A radio relay, the GRC-408A, provides a frequency range from 1350 to 1850 megahertz. Data is at 256, 512, 1,024 and 2,048 kilobits per second with an access method interface, and the service channel multiplex offers voice, remote control and automatic control power. A modular tactical switch is digital and Eurocom compatible, featuring flood circuit routing, extended range of services and interfaces. This is a highly modular design and a very small, lightweight system.

Sanz continues that the Spanish army successfully used the tactical area network during a recent joint operational exercise in the Netherlands. This exercise proved the interoperability of the system for coalition operations, he contends. The network is one of the most modern battlefield systems available on the market. He concludes that “Amper’s system never loses communications because it provides alternate routes. Switching, network management and supervision are key elements.”