Rear Admiral Rees Ward, Chief Executive of the Defence Communication Services Agency (DCSA), has opened the hub of a rationalised and enhanced High Frequency (HF) communications service for the UK’s Armed Forces at Forest Moor in North Yorkshire. The refurbished Defence High Frequency Communications Service (DHFCS) Network Control Station (NCS) is at the centre of a multi-million pound investment by VT Communications as part of a 15-year PPP (Public Private Partnership) contract valued at £220 million.

The DHFCS contract was awarded in 2003 to modernise the HF beyond line of sight communications capability for UK armed forces and other authorised users. The contract has enhanced the quality, availability and reliability of the worldwide network of HF communications assets used by all three UK armed forces, with a programme of improved operational arrangements and new technology introduced by VT. This includes new transmitters, receivers, antennas, and an integrated control system to provide new data services offering Automatic Link Establishment (ALE), Automatic Repeat Request (ARQ) and Automatic Link Management (ALM).

Admiral Rees Ward commented: “The opening of the Network Control Station marks another major step towards the delivery of the new DHFCS but more importantly demonstrates the strong partnership between the MoD and VT Communications. This successful relationship helps to promote the DCSA’s Vision of Industry/MoD partnering to deliver assured, integrated information services to the UK’s Armed Forces.”

VT Communications Managing Director Doug Umbers added: “DHFCS has produced considerable benefits for the users by streamlining and modernising the use of HF communications for ships and aircraft and other users.

“The programme is a great example of industry and Government working together. Our partnership with the Defence Communications Services Agency (DCSA) and, in particular, the Strategic Terrestrial Radio Systems (STRS) Integrated Project Team has delivered one of the most advanced HF communications systems used by any military in the world.”

VT has achieved significant cost savings by utilising modern technology. This has led to the rationalisation of the number of UK sites delivering the service from 14 to six, allowing the return of surplus land. Overseas, four sites provide services to both air and surface platforms. In addition, the global rationalisation programme has led to the release of approximately 200 military personnel to other higher priority duties

Under DHFCS, Terrestrial Air Sea Communications (TASCOMM) is available for use by RN, RAF and the Army. TASCOMM is a ground-air-ground, ship-shore and ground-to-ground HF radio communications service designed for NATO and National use. Previously known as STCICS, TASCOMM has its control centre at the NCS at Forest Moor with an alternative network control centre (ANCS) located at RAF Kinloss. Both the NCS and ANCS will control, transmit and receive assets around the world to provide an efficient and responsive service to the users.

Combined with the introduction of new RAF and RN platform HF communications equipment supplied under separate contracts, DHFCS will take full advantage of the modern high-speed waveforms to provide rapid data throughput, eventually including HF email. ALE, ARQ and ALM techniques both simplify and speed up the process of establishing HF communication channels.

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