Army's Wide Area Communications gear boosts signal strength

IMAGINE: An infantry scout is tasked to survey enemy territory. After taking photographs, he prepares to send them to headquarters electronically. But the transmission speed is just not fast enough. By the time he is done the enemy has moved away. The photos are rendered useless.

The army officially unveiled its new Wide Area Communications (WAC) system yesterday in an effort to prevent such a scenario.

Comprising the Digitised Trunk Communications System (D-TCS) and the Ku-Band Satellite Communications (Ku-Band Satcom) System, the WAC improves on existing systems and is said to be "faster and easier to deploy".

Signal communications form an integral part of the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF). In the field, information can become obsolete within minutes.

The WAC system was commissioned by Senior Minister of State for Defence Chan Chun Sing.

Speaking at its launch, he said: "The success of any military operation hinges on the effectiveness of command and control of the battlefield, which is underpinned by a strong communications system that allows critical information to be transmitted between commanders and forces on the ground."

The Ku-Band Satcom system is an improvement from the C-Band Satcom which has been used since 2001, providing a higher bandwidth and greater ease of deployment.

Used mainly for humanitarian assistance, disaster relief and peace support operations, Satcom provides the SAF with a means of communication that is highly reliable and unlimited in range.

The D-TCS is the first massive overhaul of the SAF signal infrastructure in 22 years. It is 17 times the speed of its predecessor, the Trunk Communication System (TCS), commissioned in 1991.

With each radio capable of transmitting up to 34Mbps, it is capable of a wider range of communications, such as videoconferencing, transmission of high-resolution videos and photos plus real-time data and file sharing.

It allows the soldier on the ground to be more aware of what is happening around him. The D-TCS can also integrate communication systems used in the battlefield into a single network, which the TCS was unable to do. It will improve the information flow between different SAF platforms like the mini unmanned aerial vehicles, Terrex infantry carrier vehicles and main battle tanks.

The WAC system will cut training time for its army operators by up to 30 per cent. "It's customised to meet our operational needs and make it faster, easier to deploy and a lot easier to train," said Chief Signal Officer Foo Khee Loon.

"Picking up the system was relatively easy," said Lieutenant Jeremy Kwek, 22, a platoon commander who studied financial informatics in polytechnic. "Being Generation Y, most of the guys find the system easier to pick up."