International Report

Thomson-CSF Wins BIFF Contract
French contractor Thomson-CSF Comsys has been awarded a Euro 38 million contract covering the production of 1500 Battlefield Identification Friend-or-Foe (BIFF) systems for France's armed forces. As currently structured, the French BIFF effort anticipates acquisition of 5400 units in three production lots. The equipment being supplied is compliant with a BIFF standard that has been jointly established by France, Germany, the UK and the US and operates in the 33 to 40 GHz frequency band. The Thomson-CSF BIFF is a question-and-answer system designed for installation on battlefield vehicles with weapon firing capability. It interrogates detected targets as to their identity (categorising them as friendly or unknown) while at the same time allowing potential targets to inform shooters that they are friendly. Thomson-CSF notes that the equipment it is supplying will be interoperable with the identification systems being fielded by the armies of the US, Britain and Germany. This capability has been achieved via the use of the 33 to 40 GHz range as a common operating band and the development of a common Franco-American waveform. Thomson further notes that its BIFF makes use of a modular design that allows it to be configured as a combined interrogator-transponder, fixed transponder or portable strap-on transponder that can be transferred between vehicles on an as and when needed basis. The first French BIFF systems are scheduled for delivery in 2002.

Matra Marconi Delivers HIRDLS
Franco-British space contractor Matra Marconi Space (MMS) has supplied the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory (RAL) with the main flight structure and mechanisms for the High Resolution Dynamic Limb Sounder (HIRDLS) earth observation instrument. To be flown on the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) Earth Observing System Chemistry satellite during 2002, the HIRDLS is intended to scan a designated section of the earth's atmosphere for specified chemical compounds (including ozone) once every orbit. The sensor will be flown at an altitude of 705 km from where it will sample the earth's atmosphere within the eight to 120 km height band. Designed for an operational life of six years, HIRDLS's primary task will be to assess whether or not worldwide pollution controls are effective and contributing to a slowing down of global warming and/or annual ozone loss. HIRDLS has been funded by NASA and the UK's Natural Environment Research Council and has involved development work by MMS, the RAL, and Reading and Oxford Universities. For its part, MMS has delivered both an HIRDLS engineering model for launch environment testing and the already noted flight structure and mechanisms that are now to be mated with a range of UK- and US-sourced electronics and optics.

We Are Not Amused!
In a lighter than normal vein, Microwave Journal's International Report understands that Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II has objected to the erection of a 20 m mobile telephone transmission mast disguised as a tree near Windsor Castle, Berkshire, England. In a letter of objection to the local planning authority, a royal aide is reported to have described the proposed fir tree mast that service provider Vodaphone would like to plant near the Long Walk in Windsor Great Park as ridiculous. International Report will of course bring you further developments in this saga as they occur.

NATAR Woos Turkey
Representatives of the five-nation Brussels, Belgium-based NATO Advanced Technology Radar (NATAR) consortium have met with representatives of Turkish industry to discuss the possibility of Turkey's participation in the programme. Officially designated a NATO project earlier this year, NATAR (comprising representatives from Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Norway and the US) has been tasked with presenting a proposal for a six-aircraft, NATO-owned-and-operated radar ground surveillance capability that would function as both a crisis management and peace-keeping support tool. Likely to be structured along the lines of the Alliance's existing multinational Airborne Early Warning Force, a NATO airborne radar ground surveillance capability is considered an urgent requirement. NATAR's project definition phase is expected to take two years, with the first operational system delivered during 2008. The competitiion is expected to be fierce with contenders likely to include a variant of the UK's Airborne Stand-Off Radar (ASTOR) system, NATAR's Airbus A320-mounted Northrop Grumman AN/APY-XX radar and an outgrowth of the Franco-German, Dutch and Italian SOSTAR radar technology demonstrator. The APY-XX radar is an active array upgrade that Northrop Grumman is developing for the US Air Force's E-8 Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System (Joint STARS) aircraft under the Joint STARS Radar Technology Insertion Programme.

Racal Launches World's Smallest TETRA Radio
UK contractor Racal Defence Electronics claims to have created the world's smallest secure Trans European Trunked Radio (TETRA) standard surveillance radio. The new 380 to 430 MHz band Vector radio is designed specifically for use by police, customs, military and governmental agencies, and offers standard and end-to-end encrypted TETRA direct and trunked-mode operation as well as a software-programmable digital architecture that is configured for future enhancements. System operation is initiated via a covert palm-sized radio control unit or an overt, clip-on intelligent microphone/loudspeaker unit. System encryption is by means of a removable encryption module and facilities are available for over-the-air encryption key filling and/or remote operation of features such as stun and live microphone. The stun function is intended to kill the radio should it fall into the wrong hands while the live microphone mode allows a remote operator to activate it. The ruggedised Vector package is sealed against water ingress and includes a vehicle adapter, a secure peripherals interface, linear modulation technology and a FLASH-loaded, digital signal processing architecture that supports UK-enhanced grade encryption.

Roke Manor Makes First UMTS Call over a TD-CDMA (TDD) Interface
Roke Manor Research Ltd. claims to have made the world's first Universal Mobile Telecommunications System (UMTS) standard telephone call over a time division CDMA (TD-CDMA) air interface. Forming part of an experimental time division duplex (TDD) network, the significance of this event is its demonstration of the validity of the air interface provision that is incorporated in Europe's third-generation mobile communications UMTS standard and the International Mobile Telecommunications 2000 (IMT-2000) standard's Universal Terrestrial Radio Access (UTRA) specification. Both UMTS and UTRA include provisions for the interconnection of mobile handsets and base stations using TD-CDMA and frequency division duplex wideband CDMA interface modes. Such an approach offers the possibility of constructing highly flexible networks capable of providing enhanced voice and data services in high subscriber, high usage density hot spots, together with movement towards an ultimate goal of seamless global radio coverage. The first examples of UMTS technology are scheduled to enter commercial service in 2001.