180628 HarrisUkraine is making extensive use of advanced Western technologies to build up its national defense capability

 

Ukraine is currently becoming a testing ground for evaluating advanced military technology solutions in real-world combat scenarios. One example is secure, digital, tactical communications systems by Harris that have been procured and funded by U.S. foreign military assistance initiatives and now employed broadly by Ukraine’s armed services. In an interview conducted by Defense Express, Serhiy CHEPEL, CEO, private Radio Satcom Group, an exclusive representative of Harris - Communication Systems in Ukraine, discusses, among other things, the Company’s products and their successful applications for the needs of the Ukrainian Military.

 

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S e r h i y  C H E P E L

CEO, Radio Satcom Group,

exclusive representative of Harris -

Communication Systems in Ukraine

DE: What specific types of Harris radios have been, and still continue to be, delivered to Ukraine’s defense and security users?

Serhiy Chepel: A full range of HF, VHF and UHF radios have been and continue to be delivered. These include tactical radios for handheld and manpack applications, and vehicular systems designed for use on armored fighting vehicles, tanks, command and staff vehicles as well as fixed installations. The radios come packaged with accessories like antenna sets, installation kits, power supplies, voltage converters, and intercoms.

 

First shipments were made of Falcon II radios of various capacities. These are highly reliable and sought-after radios that have, for many years, been tested and proven in combat. The Falcon II is the most widely fielded radio in the US armed services, with about 50,000 HF radios alone deployed to date.

 

First shipments of Falcon II tactical radios were made under the U.S. Foreign Military Funding (FMF) programs to equip Ukraine’s 95th Independent Airborne Brigade, as well as the Navy. In 2015, the Ukrainian Government funded a $10 million procurement of the more affordable, low-end Falcon II MPR 9600 model, with no new procurements of Falcon II radios made ever since.

 

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Some Harris radiations which were delivered to Ukraine

 

After the start of Russian military incursion into Ukraine, more current and capable Falcon III tactical radios of various capacities and for various applications began to be procured in substantial numbers under US foreign military assistance programs.

 

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Harris Falcon III tactical radios

 

These are all pretty expensive, highly capable, multipurpose, third generation tactical radio systems that are fully interoperable with Falcon II and other existing tactical radios used by NATO forces, and they have just begun to be fielded by armed services of the US and NATO countries. They are designed with a wide range of capabilities for high-speed data and voice transmissions, pseudorandom operational frequency readjustment, generation of highly secure wireless IP-networks, to name just a few. Such flexibility is supporting a wider range of capabilities, including reliable secure communication through radio networks of different sizes, saving channel resource, and ensuring uninterrupted data and voice communications in noisy and heavy ECM environments.

 

DE: Apart from HF/VHF and multi-band radios, Harris is also offering intercom systems to Ukrainian consumers. Would you elaborate on them, please?

Serhiy Chepel: The vehicle intercom system by Harris is universally applicable to a wide variety of combat platforms -- armored fighting and command and staff vehicles of all kinds, as well as communication equipment rooms and field communication centers. The Intercom system comes in two versions, supporting two and four radios.

 

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The system provides networking for a variety of radio networks: HF, VHF, terrestrial communication channels, etc. The Intercom is comprised of a switch unit and its associated Networking Intercom System (NIS) speaker units. The switch unit is responsible for networking communication channels and providing direct voice connectivity between the squad leader and any of the connected speakers. Each NIS speaker, using a tangent control board, can connect either to another speaker within the NIS network, or to the master radio where the system configuration allows so. It is possible to switch between different networks, regardless of the brand or operating bandwidth of the radio

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Element of Harris Intercom system

used, be it Harris, Motorola or Aselsan.

 

The NIS has an embedded SIP server, which essentially makes the connected radios into IP phones. Besides, intercoms can be connected in cascades, thus allowing the number of connected radios to be increased as needed. Further to this, the NIS can be connected to an Ethernet network to support IP data communication between all and any of the connected radios.

 

DE: Which of its foreign military aid programs is the US Administration currently employing for Ukraine?

Serhiy Chepel: These days, there is only one US aid program employed – the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, under which the US has appropriated USD 350 million in military assistance funding for Ukraine. Communication is conducted directly with members of the military radio community, who make know what they need, then receive the required capabilities.

 

DE: Four years into the Ukraine-Russia conflict, what is the amount, in value and in number, of the Harris radios provided for Ukraine’s defense and security sector under the US foreign military aid programs?

Serhiy Chepel: Although not classified, this information is not advertised either. The defense and security sector received some USD 30 million and USD 80 million worth of Harris radios in 2016 and in 2017 respectively. For 2018 we are anticipating a similar or even higher amount, but it's still too early to talk about this now. US Government decisions regarding the amount and content of military-technical assistance are hinged mainly on the military and political realities obtaining at the time the decisions are made. At least let us be optimistic about it until it happens.

 

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DE: How does the American party appraise its work with Ukrainian partners?

Serhiy Chepel: The key criterion for evaluating cooperation is effective utilization of the equipment and technologies received, as stated by representatives of the U.S. Army European Command during two working meetings with officers of the Main Directorate of Communications, Ukraine’s General Staff, at the NATO Liaison Office, Kyiv, in 2017.

 

The Americans evaluate that the communication equipment they provide is utilized effectively. The military radio community and we believe this is an adequate and well-deserved appraisal. The Harris HF radio has effectively become the standard radio for Ukraine’s armed services, and we are confidently expecting that it will soon replace the legacy inventory, not only the Army’s but the other armed services’ too. There has been intensive work underway to modernize selected units and formations with HF/VHF radios that are unique worldwide in terms of some of their performance capabilities. These technologies are enablers for next-generation combat management systems that dispense with voice communication and enable effective application of software and hardware solutions for reconnaissance and intelligence gathering, artillery fire control, greater engagement of digital maps, etc. Ukraine's Armed Forces, State Border Guard Service and National Guard are currently gaining experience with these new capabilities.

 

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Owing to well-coordinated efforts by defense and security agencies in Ukraine, there has been a sufficiently high efficiency level in utilizing the military and technical assistance granted by the US Government. As a result, we currently have several running programs aimed to acquire tactical communication products by Harris, under US-funded contracts.

 

DE: The last question is to what extent are Harris radios resilient to electronic countermeasures, particularly those used by Russia-backed insurgents in the Donbas Theater?

Serhiy Chepel: It should be explained that Harris radios have been especially designed to operate in heavy ECM environments. So our equipment operates faultlessly, providing secure communications, this despite the fact that Russian EW systems are technologically sophisticated systems, and they have been employed massively by the intervention forces.

 

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It is difficult even for the most technologically advanced EW system to detect and jam a frequency agile, VHF radio, for example, which operates in a wide bandwidth range and is capable of frequency hopping at 1,000 hops per second. Besides, the use of special techniques and methods in operating the radio at very low duty cycles makes its detection and jamming complicated further. Regarding the possibility of interception, decryption of communication would be impossible at all within an affordable time.

 

Interviewed by Anton MIKHNENKO

and Sergii ZHURETS

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Translation

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