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Industry News

International Report

May 1, 1999
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International Report

Siberian Trunked Radio Telecommunications System Moves Forward
Following the completion of the first 800 km section of Russian utility provider Irkutskenergo's southern Siberian trunked radio telecommunications system in 1998, work has begun on completing the architecture. Covering an area of approximately 770,000 km2 , the new system links the provider's facilities in Bajkalsk in the south with Ustilimsk in the north. When completed, the system will comprise 31 base stations, 26 trunked site controllers and 150 radio channels.

The Itrank architecture, which is supplied by equipment contractor Rohde & Schwarz, centres on the company's Accessnet mobile-to-mobile exchange family with master control exercised by a digital MMX 64/64 controller installed at the Irkutskenergo headquarters. Two smaller MMX 64/32 digital controllers are located at sites where traffic is expected to be particularly heavy; all other system facilities are equipped with MMX 4 or MMX 8/16 controllers. The base stations are either four-, six-, eight- or 12-channel ND 950, four-channel ND 951 or four-channel ND 953 facilities. The subscriber terminals are Motorola GM 1200, GP 600 or GP 1200 units. Overall, the Itrank system provides subscribers with voice, status message, data transmission and alarm signalling facilities and can handle individual and group activity.

UK Upgrades AWACS ESM
The UK's Ministry of Defence has awarded Racal Radar Defence Systems (RRDS) a contract estimated at £5 M covering the upgrade of the Lockheed Martin EW-1017 electronic support measures (ESM) systems fitted to the seven Sentry AEW.1 airborne warning and control system (AWACS) aircraft that are in service with the UK's royal air force (RAF). Covering the C- through J-band (0.5 to 20 GHz) frequency range, the EW-1017 application incorporates wingtip antenna pods, a dual-channel superheterodyne receiver, a power supply, and IF/processor and executive processor units. Known as ARI.18240 Yellowgate in RAF service, the planned EW-1017 upgrade is designed to enhance the system's threat warning and general surveillance capabilities and improve its reliability and maintainability. The Yellowgate system utilizes a variant of RRDS's commercial-off-the-shelf Melinda signal processor and is reportedly scheduled to remain in service aboard the RAF's Sentries until 2025.

EW-1017 systems fitted to the RAF's Nimrod MR.2 maritime reconnaissance aircraft will not be upgraded under the Yellowgate programme. Rather, the MR.2 aircraft is scheduled to be replaced by the MRA.4 variant, and the new model MR.2's EW-1017 will be superseded by a variant of the Elta Electronics EL/L-8300 ESM system. In addition, an EL/L-8300 variant is also being fitted to royal Australian air force AP-3C maritime reconnaissance and strike aircraft. A recently announced two-year delay in the Nimrod MRA.4 programme could persuade the RAF to extend the Yellowgate enhancement to include the Nimrod MR.2 if it remains in service longer than expected.

Shell Launches Contactless Payment System
Petrochemical giant Shell is testing a contactless payment system in 100 of its petrol stations in the Netherlands. The new Easypay system is designed to provide customers with a secure, at-the-pump payment method. The system encompasses a Philips Semiconductors Mifare chip, which is embedded in a transponder in a company-provided key ring. Petrol can be purchased by simply placing the Easypay key ring near a chip reader mounted on the fuel pump and punching in an allocated pin number. The reader uses RF identification to verify the transponder/pin number combination and, if valid, authorises the dispensing of petrol.  When the delivery nozzle is returned to its holster, the cost of the fuel is deducted automatically from the customer's bank account. If successful, Shell may extend the Easypay scheme to the rest of its European fuel outlets.

UK Meets ICAO Deadline with French Radio Purchase
The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) has met UK Staff Requirement (Air) 929 with a £23 M procurement of Thomson-CSF voice/data and Secure Antijam UHF Radio for NATO (SATURN) radios for retrofit aboard C-130 Hercules C.1/C.3 transport, VC-10 tanker, Canberra PR.9 reconnaissance, Nimrod maritime patrol/signals intelligence and Jetstream T.3 training aircraft. Air 929 has been designed to meet the International Civil Aviation Organisation's (ICAO) October 1999 deadline for the installation of communications radios with 8.33 kHz channel spacing aboard aircraft that will operate under civilian air traffic control. The requirement is being met by a mix of off-the-shelf, 8.33 kHz channel-spaced voice and data radios together with the first quantity production batch of the very/ultra high frequency TRA 6021 SATURN transceiver.

Due to the compressed time frame in which this programme will be executed, the effort involves a number of subcontractors (including British Aerospace, the UK's Defence Evaluation and Research Agency (military aircraft release trials), FR Aviation and Marshalls Aerospace) that will install the various radios in the various airframes under the direction of prime contractor Thomson-CSF. Alongside Air 929, Thomson-CSF SATURN-configured radios have been selected for use on the British army's WAH-64 Apache battlefield attack helicopter and are in competition to meet a UK MoD requirement for a next-generation naval helicopter radio.

Matra Marconi Receives Design and Development Contracts
Franco-British space contractor Matra Marconi Space (MMS) has been awarded two contracts covering the design and development of the European Space Agency's (ESA) Mars Express vehicle and design studies for a next-generation British Skynet 5 military communications satellite. Under the terms of the $70 M Mars Express contract, the vehicle has been scheduled for dispatch during the particularly favourable Earth-Mars launch window that will occur in June 2003. Designed primarily to detect subsurface water on Mars, Mars Express will be the first ESA spacecraft designed to visit the red planet and will take approximately six months to reach its destination. This short transit time is due to the close proximity of the two planets during the second half of 2003. According to MMS, early industry involvement in the Mars Express programme has resulted in an effective, relatively low cost vehicle that meets a highly defined set of objectives. Cost has been capped by the use of off-the-shelf equipment that has already been developed for ESA's Rosetta comet sampling vehicle.

Valued at approximately £30 M and scheduled to span  20 months, MMS's Skynet 5 study award covers work on system definition and technology prototyping and will ultimately lead to a fully defined proposal for a next-generation communications satellite for use by the British armed forces. A key part of this initial effort is configuring the final proposal as a Private Finance Initiative (PFI) procurement effort. As such, the particular PFI approach used will involve the production team selected to implement the system in funding construction of the necessary satellites and developing communications service catalogues, charging structures and billing systems.

Within the UK defence procurement establishment, the £1 B Skynet 5 programme represents a flagship PFI effort, and the push for the final production/system management contract involves MMS in establishing Paradigm Secure Communications to address the necessary financing and communications service issues. At this stage, contractors and financiers involved with MMS in Paradigm include Atlas Capital Finance; Cogent; Freshfield, Ernst and Young; Logica; Motorola; System Engineering Assessment; and TRW. 

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