International Report

Africa Launches Its First Direct TV Broadcast Satellite

Africa’s first direct television broadcast satellite was launched successfully in April from Kourou, French Guiana aboard the Ariane 4 rocket V108. Constructed for Egypt’s NILESAT company, the new 1840 kg NILESAT 101 spacecraft, which was developed by Matra Marconi Space, is positioned at 7° west. In this position, the vehicle is able to provide beam coverage for all of North Africa from Morocco to the Persian Gulf.

The system’s direct broadcast payload was developed by French contractor ALCATEL and comprises 12 transponders that operate in the 17.3 to 17.7 GHz frequency band, allowing NILESAT 101 to broadcast up to 100 digital television channels (together with data and radio services) that can be received on standard 60 cm diameter domestic reception dishes. The system’s channel bandwidth is 33 MHz with a high power amplifier RF output power of 99 W. The spacecraft has a planned lifespan of 15 years and will be used predominantly by Egypt’s Radio and Television Union.

Both Matra Marconi and ALCATEL are involved in additional aspects of the contract. Matra Marconi is overseeing the provision of ground control centres at Cairo and Alexandria, Egypt, operator training and the construction of long-lead items for a spare satellite; and ALCATEL produced the satellite’s telemetry tracking and control system.

Horizon EW Faces Scheduling Problems

In a surprise move, the steering committee overseeing the development of the trinational (France, Italy and UK) Horizon common new-generation frigate (CNGF) has determined that the end of October will be the cutoff date for the selection of all necessary ship systems. This deadline appears to be a direct result of the group’s recent decision to set the CNGF’s initial in-service date to 2004. This acceleration in programme development is expected to have a major impact on the development of the class’s electronic warfare (EW) suite. The project definition studies for the EW suite that previously were scheduled for completion in May 1999 now are scheduled to be completed this month. If the new schedule is adhered to, it is unlikely that a system capable of meeting the current CNGF EW specification can be developed and produced within the available time window because the full specification reportedly is beyond the funding capabilities of some of the participating nations.

Additional problems in meeting the time constraints stem from a distinct lack of commonality in what is currently being proposed. A major difference of opinion exists amongst the programme’s participants with regard to active radar jamming techniques and because CNGF EW provision will be national rather than common in three areas: communications intelligence and database support provisions, and the type of countermeasures dispensing system to be used. Accordingly, it seems that the only real potential for EW commonality within the programme is in terms of system control and electronic support provision. This lack of commonality extends beyond the EW sphere with differences in radar provision, gun armament and space allocation within national hulls. Indeed, the only common elements within the CNGF programme appear to be the combat management and communications systems used.

In terms of resolving the programme’s EW problems, it has been suggested that the best way to proceed is to utilise already-available capabilities wherever possible and grow the system incrementally towards a full specification capability. In specific UK terms, it also has been suggested that the CNGF EW capability be fitted to the royal navy’s future escort frigate (FEF). Approximately 20 FEFs will likely be required to replace the service’s existing type 22 and 23 frigates when they reach the end of their service lives.

Malaysia Launches Air Force Communications Update

UK contractor Park Air Electronics (part of Northrop Grumman’s Electronic Sensors and Systems Division) has been awarded a multimillion-pound contract to update the royal Malaysian air force’s (RMAF) VHF/UHF (30 MHz to 1 GHz) ground-to-air air traffic control (ATC) communications network. Acting as a subcontractor to Italy’s Alenia (the programme’s prime contractor), Park Air is supplying an offset-carrier area coverage system that will incorporate the company’s type 3040 UHF, 3060 VHF/UHF and 3070 VHF transceivers. Of these units, the type 3040 and 3070 equipments are being supplied as duplicated transceivers to ensure maximum system reliability while the type 3060 units will act as remotely configured backups to the dedicated band radios.

In all, four cabinet equipment packages will be installed at six of the RMAF’s eight operating bases (Alor Setar/Sultan Abdul Haji Halim, Butterworth, Keluang, Kuala Lumpur/Sungai Besi, Kuantan, Kuching, Labuan and Subang) with overall system control being exercised by the Joint ATC Centre in Subang. The Subang facility will be able to monitor equipment performance throughout the network and initiate remote radio substitution and reconfiguration in case of subsystem failures. The RMAF is the second of Malaysia’s armed services to introduce Park Air communications equipment; the royal Malaysian navy is currently utilising 3000 series radios aboard its surface ships.

Schlumberger Integrates Philips’ Cryptocontroller IC into Its Smart Cards

Schlumberger Electronic Transactions (a division of Schlumberger Ltd.) has integrated Philips Semiconductors’ model P83C858 cryptocontroller IC into its Java Cyberflex smart card in an attempt to maximise available security levels and thereby facilitate increased Cyberflex use in mass market areas such as banking, pay television, telecommunications and electronic transaction activity. The Cyberflex arena represents a huge market for Schlumberger, which manufactured 540 million cards in 1997.

The P83C858 chip has a 2048-bit maximum key length and 32-bit scaling. The IC incorporates a fast accelerator for modular exponentiation arithmetic coprocessor that reportedly offers the highest execution speed of any smart card chip in production currently.

The two contractors further suggest that Java-based smart cards offer an ideal solution within the sector because of the language’s ability to create multiple applications in relatively small code strings (thereby allowing a single smart unit to replace multiple existing magnetic strip cards) and its familiarity and wide use as a nonspecialist programming language. In addition, use of Java allows applications to be written and trailed in days rather than months and facilitates the addition or removal of functions after card manufacture.

French Air Force Orders Helicopter MAW

French defence electronics contractor Dassault Electronique has been awarded a contract to supply an unquantified number of its model MWS-20 active pulse Doppler missile approach warners (MAW) for use on French air force helicopters. The 10 kg MWS-20 system utilises four conformal antennas to provide 360° coverage and is designed for low radiated power, covert operation.

The equipment incorporates a high level of miniaturisation and is able to cooperate with both missile launch warners and radar warning receivers. Reportedly, the MWS-20 systems will be installed on Puma transport helicopters that are assigned to special operations. The service’s 5/67 Alpilles helicopter squadron tested the AS 332C Super Puma helicopter in a combat search-and-rescue role in 1995 and 1996. The French military likely will order additional MWS-20s in the near future.