Multinational Tactical Communications

One of the big challenges facing the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan is that radio systems from different countries don’t communicate with each another. Coordinating disparate radio systems in joint international operations will be a major focus of the Tactical Communications Conference, which will take place in April in London.

Defense IQ.com has a brief interview with one of the conference’s featured speakers, Dr. Vigneron, who is the Canadian Representative to the VHF/UHF Waveform Standardization Group at NATO.  The interview gives us a brief taste of his presentation.

Anyone familiar with this field knows that one of biggest headaches is integration of old legacy systems. Dr. Vigneron reports that there will be a “long transition period,” since many of the older systems are broadcast-oriented and not true networks. Dr. Vigneron specifically cites slow switching as a characteristic problem.

Then there’s the sensitive question of national sovereignty versus international needs. Dr. Vigneron estimates that any given national system will be using multinational waveforms 10-20% of the time.  Of course, individual countries have the option of adopting the multinational standard, which most European nations have done for air-to-air and air-to-ground systems.

From Dr. Vigneron’s interview, one gathers many of the problems will be institutional rather than technical.  NATO will set the multinational standards for its members, but how will compliance be enforced?  Which legacy systems will be retrofitted and which will be replaced?  How will crypto functions be shared among sovereign nations? Will the richer countries’ desire to upgrade standards be hampered by the poorer nations’ lack of resources?

Hear Dr. Vigneron opinions on the challenges of integrating tactical communication systems across national borders by clicking here.