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    Buying military radio - Manpack - Base - Mobile

    If you decide military radio is thats what you want and you want something really secure and robust you will need to look on several points and price is not priority of course in that situation because people can sale you something not usefull atall.
    What make military radio secure?
    Frequency hopping
    Encryption
    Lets start with frequency hopping
    Ok we can look on several radios using freqs hopping
    Most of the military radio suppliers using on HF frequency hopping 256 kHz
    Why 256 Khz and from where that limitation is coming from?
    Most importand is how effective your antenna tuner are specially in manpack radios
    Some of the manufacturers reduce effeciency and keeping 256 kHz of course thats reduce range with whip antennas dramaticly.
    Other manufacturers of HF military radios are Codan and Barrett
    Like I say above manpack is most important and we can compare Codan 2110 radio and Barrett PRC 2090 radio.
    Codan 2110 offering varius frequency hopping band Codan 2110M Military Manpack Radio



    Standard FH 1% of the freqs thats mean on frequency 3 Mhz freq hoping band will be 30 kHz and on 7 mHz 70 kHz.
    On the same time Codan is allow customer to change setting of freqs hopping and customer can decide what freqs band he need and he will FH band will be limited only by antenna and propagation you can hope 1.6 - 30 mHz but of course propagation will not allow you do that.
    Other modes Codan offering you can hop on preset channel. Thats quite unique option also as far as I know Rhode Swarz can offer the same.
    Possibility for customer to decide how wide you can hop is very unique and of course its great advantage for the customer.

    Ok Barrett 2090 manpack radio Barrett 2090 military manpack radio




    Ok if you look on that radio and will request operator manual for manpack radio you will understand that radio cant be considered as secure frequency hopping radio.
    Reason? Frequency hopping band. Manual I see is state that frequency hopping is only plus minus 1 kHz and that narrower then SSB signal!!!
    Of course its very easy even for people with amateur radio equipment to intercept such FH.
    Company are good anyway hiding their disadvantages and in specification there is no word about FH Bandwith :-)

    General specifications
    Frequency range 1.6 MHz to 30 MHz Tx, 250 kHz to 30 MHz Rx*
    Channel capacity Up to 500 programmable channels
    Operating modes J3E (USB, LSB) – H3E (AM) – J2A (CW) – J2B (AFSK)
    Frequency stability ±0.5 ppm (±0.3 ppm optional)
    Sensitivity -120 dBm (0.224 μV) for 10 dB SINAD – J3E Mode pre-amp on
    Frequency hopping 5 or 25 hops per second
    RF connections Whip or long wire using internal automatic antenna tuner or 50 ohms connector
    RF output power 30 W PEP, 10 W PEP (125 W PEP) when in vehicle or base docking station (voice duty cycle only)
    Operating temperature -30°C to +70°C humidity 95% relative, non condensing
    Programming RS-232
    Weight 2090 transceiver with 10 Ah Lithium Ion battery cartridge 5.22 kg
    Standards Meets AS/NZS4770:2000, CE, MIL-STD 810G for immersion, shock, vibration, dust and spray
    *reduced sensitivity 250 kHz to 500 kHz
    Specifications are typical. Equipment descriptions and specifications are subject to change without notice or obligation.

    If you look on Barrett website http://www.barrettcommunications.com...-2090-manpack/ company states:
    "The PRC-2090 is a rugged fully featured tactical HF transceiver solution delivering proven field deployable secure communications with un-paralleled reliability. Designed for operation in the toughest of environments, the PRC-2090 complies with MIL-STD 810G for shock and vibration, is immersible to a depth of 1 m and can be operated in extremes of temperature from –40°C to +70°C." and when you look on technical specification temperature limit drop down from minus 40 to minus 30.
    Probably its not important if you in Africa or Caribean but its create questions if manufacture claiming different figures what is reason of that and how any of them can be trusted?

    Thats short description of Frequency Hoping.

    When we consider Frequency Hopping we need to remember that Frequency hopping was real secure in 20 century when all that SDR receivers and fast scanning receivers not exist or was very expensive.
    This days even 256 kHz or wider FH range is helping to make it more difficult to jam your communications but not as before and modern sophisticated jammers will jam it anyway.

    Another way we need to know about FH are synchronization type.
    Harris, Thales, Tadiran, Rhode Swarz and other military radios manufacturer using on air synchronization and some of them offering also GPS synchronization.
    Codan and Barrett both use GPS synchronization for Frequency Hopping.
    Disadvantage of on air synchronization are that you need always to TX your synchronization signals and thats make also your network more visible on the air and your enemy have a chance to jam your synchronization signals also.
    GPS synchronization have advantage because you dont need synchro signal but problem can appear if some one will start jam GPS.
    Radios have protection from that because you dont need to have data from GPS receivers always and there is number of the other things like for example developed by AT Communication GNSS system you can use for synchronization
    https://at-communication.com/en/hf-s...-receiver.html

    I think good video of design military HF radio is video of the friend of mine Rod Macduff VK6MH designer of Q-MAC HF - 90 transceiver.
    73 Al 4L5A
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    #2
    Encryption

    Encryption is one of the important point in military radios.
    Today there is plenty of manufacturers offering encryption
    We can classified them to different groups
    1, Voice inversion some company is call them scramblers and some encryptors.
    2, Universal encryptors for HF and VHF
    3. HF analog encryptors
    4. HF digital encryptors
    5. HF digital encryptors with Digital voice and vocoder.
    6. Country of origin

    Ok I have experience with many types of encryptors from many different countries including tests of exotic ones like from North Korea :-).

    When you buy encryption you need to know that if you have feeling that you protected 100% can get you in trouble.
    Of course its important to know who is your enemy and what kind of the intercept equipment he can use to crack your encryption.

    Ok lets discuss it by points
    1. Voice inversion
    That product is dont have anything with encryption really I not recommend that to anyone because you will just blow your money with that product and anyone with very little experience will be able to listen NO PROTECTION.
    2. Universal encryptors
    We know there are many companies manufacturing encryptors for VHF radios and offering that also for HF radios but HF is very different to VHF and such encryptors not doing work really on HF.
    3, Analog voice encryptor
    Its depend on the type of encryptor and how manufacturer realize it.
    Some of the analog encryptor are very simple and really not offering high level of encryptor and others with my opinion can have more benefit then digital.
    4. Digital encryptors
    Digital encryptors usually are AES 128 or 256.
    Many of HF manufacturer using AES 128 for voice and AES 256 for data.
    Reason is simple delays because limited bandwith on HF.
    We need to remember on the same time those magic AES 128 and 256 can be very different.
    5. More and more companies offering digital voice and vocoders
    You can see 2400, 1200, 600 and even 300 bits compression of the voice
    You can listen for example how digital voice with compression looks here
    https://at-communication.com/en/hf_s...ned-radio.html
    Impressive right?
    Anyway those Digital Voice units also have disadvantages
    One of the key of security and anti spoofing are you have to recognize voice of guy you talking with and those modifyed signals reducing that dramaticly.
    6. Country of origin
    You have to take to the account countries like United States, Russia, China, France ....... will not sale to you top level of the encryption which they use for their own use.
    In United States to get permit to buy encryption you need licenses and one of the license need to be from NSA.
    Export of encryption units outside of US is regulated by letter of President of United States and its says any item need all that licenses but even if customer have all that licenses thats not mean US authority have to get any difficulties to obtain information (listen for your radio) :-).
    In Russia to get encryption you need also permits and lot of signs.
    Regulation of both countries are if you like to sale encryption product to those country you need to provide source codes to government.
    Whats that mean for us for customers?
    For example if we know that company A located even outside of US or Russia or other countries have a license to sale that mean authorities from that country will have very little problem to crack your encryption and listen to it.
    Companies seling you such products is charge you for something but not saling to you secure product.
    Of course there is also rules regulating manufacturing of such units in all those countries.
    If your encryption have key length more then 42 bits (different in different countries) you need special license and getting special license mean you need to open source code,
    I see funny example when commercial company from Russia offering encryptors for HF and VHF radios on international market and claiming their encryption is AES 256 and on the same time stating in data sheet that key length are 40 bits :-) We need to know AES 256 mean key lengt is 256 and cant be 40 :-)
    To know more about how export of encryption products work and what require license or not you can read information about Wassenaar Arrangement
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wassenaar_Arrangement

    Ok lets look now on more practical points what manufacturers trying to sale to us

    Ok first voice inversion
    Codan and Barrett is have voice inversion
    Like I describe above its not encryption atall but can be used by NGOs, police and such customer when they not really care about real high level protection.

    Analog Encryption
    Seeing number of such units I can say only ones I like is Codan CES - 128 and Russian one manufactured by governmental factories in different versions for internal use.
    Codan is manufacturing CES - 128 in own factory.

    Universal I dont think even we need to spend time on that subject because they really not work

    Digital
    Telsy voice encryptor handset used before by Barrett and I dont think they using that anymore
    I try it and its not impress me really.
    On the air its sounds like not very high speed modem.
    Manufactured in Italy.
    TCC encryption handsets
    Codan and Barrett use it before Now its used by Datron.
    With my opinion not top level of the encryption and some customers dont like it.
    Manufactured in US. Probably US version for internal market are different I dont have experience with that one.
    There are number of the the other encryptors available but I think they weaker then Telsy or TCC and not trustable.
    There is also interesting encryptor available from AOR working quite fine but not AES 256 and cant be considered as military one.

    Digital with vocoder

    Most of the top players using own one and some of the for voice encryption using AES 128 (Harris for example) and other AES 256.
    Compression of the voice is also additional point.
    MELP and MELP E is used by many manufacturers but most of them have difficulties on compression lower then 1200 bits and they trying to modify it to get it work.
    Another standard available now is TWELP developed by Russian company and many manufacturers use that standard also.
    Barrett, Datron and number of other manufacturer using now encryption with voice encryptors with vocoders manufactured in South Africa used mixture of South African, US, Russian Technology.
    Codan is using quite similar but modifyed and added some own development to that technology and Codan manufacture it on own premises as far as I know.

    My opinion is thats funny when many manufacturers using same technology and thats of course can get you to risk that your encryption can be cracked by third party.
    Less possibility with Codan and more possibility with Barrett, Datron, Grintek and others.

    Another point when we considering encryption is jamming
    Digital encryption need synchronization signals
    Synchronizing signals can be jammed
    Did you hear about burst jamming?
    Thats when your enemy send short burst to disturb your synchronization.
    After several of such burst many people switch off encryption

    Another point are when your signal is digital even not experience guy can see it on display and can understand its digital signal and with big possibility its station using encryption.
    With analog SSB encryptor situation is different and high quality analog encryptor is quite difficult to crack specially if key length is 128 bits.
    There is another points and issues with digital and analog encryption I will describe in my next post where I will describe combination of Frequency Hopping and Encryption.
    73 Al 4L5A

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      #3
      Ok I describe how Frequency Hopping and Encryption work
      I think its clear that Frequency Hopping protect from jamming and encryption protect information.
      Ok to have both we need them to work together
      Problem with FH and encryption is that when radio hopes encryption loose synchronization and fail.
      With that reason most of the radios not support both.
      We also need to know even if FH working with data speed is droping down.
      Most of top player have own encryption and FH and its work.
      If we talking about Codan, Barrett, Datron AES 256 encryption and Digital voice not work with Frequency hopping at them moment.
      Barrett can use only voice inversion with Frequency Hopping and thats mean communication is not protected read also above about bandwith of FH in Barrett radios.
      About Codan;
      CES 128 encryption is working with Frequency Hopping.
      Ok what I personnally like.
      When you using secure modes as Frequency Hopping and Encryption you need of course to know who is your enemy and what kind of the tools they can use to attack you or decrypt your messages or spoof.
      Its nesessary to take to account that in field operation there is less possibility for your enemy to have sophisticated equipment.
      I prefer CES 128 encryption more then AES 256 Why? If some one look on the screen he will see digital signals all same level and of course its easy to detect and understand its encrypted data with Frequency Hopping.
      When you using CES 128 its analog encryption and SSB signal thats mean level of the signal different on different frequency and if person who is monitoring band not experienced he will not understand there is FH radio he can think that there is number of the radios or signals or noise around.

      Ok there is many other secrets of course what you can do when you using FH radios will be happy to share it if that interesting for readers.

      73 Al 4L5A

      Comment

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        #4
        Thanks for sharing this.
        I have a some questions for frequency hopping.
        We are talking about military HF modems, so jamming is common when you're in the battlefield.
        If there is a jammer who directly jams the GPS signal instead of jamming a hopping signal, the frequency hopping modems would fail easily.
        Not to mention GPS satellites belong to US, Russia and China. They definitely will turn off GPS signal during war.
        Using on-air synchronization looks more robust than using GPS, why Codan or Barrett don't offer non-GPS FH modes?
        Is it more difficult to design FH without GPS?

        Anyway, a military communication device using public GPS system to synchronize a secure waveform and data doesn't make sense to me.

        Comment

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          #5
          Hi
          Ok Im not talking about military data HF modems as I mention before data mode is not work well with FH mode speed is droping down dramaticly because synchronization again.
          Ok about GPS synchronization
          Not only Codan and Barrett using GPS synchhronization but others also Harris ........
          I dont know if you see Harris radio with GPS sync but its exist.
          Security anyway is depend who is your enemy and how much he can invest to against you.
          If you use something like that:
          https://at-communication.com/en/hf-s...-receiver.html
          You can hope that one of the navigation system will be not jammed during attack because will be used by your enemy.
          Ok about on air synchronization its also not very robust reason of that is that your enemy can jam synchronization signal. Non GPS synchronization need to be synchronized and thats require additional signals on the air and they can be jammed or disturbed.
          GPS synchronization allow you also if its jammed to still use radio in FH mode for few hours some on air synch allowing you to do the same.
          My opinion is that more choices you have giving you more protection.
          For example Codan radios giving you chance to hope on preprogrammed channels and of course that dont need GPS or on air synchronization :-).
          73 Al 4L5A

          Comment

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            #6
            One of the disadvantage of on air synchronization is that your network is visible and base radio synchronization signal will be visible for your enemy.
            Master station always send sync signals and enemy can simply shoot that station. Thats big disadvantage also.
            73 Al 4L5A

            Comment

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              #7
              Ok when you decide that you need military radio you need to know with whom you going to communicate
              Your organization already have network or you just going to start it.
              Very important is that radios you purchasing need to be compatible to radios you using now or radios you will purchase in the future.
              What kind of the standards military radios use seldom FED STD 1045 and mostly Mil Std ALE or 3G ALE (last one is most modern one).
              How we can protect our selfs that radio we buying have right standard.
              There is organization called JITC certifying Mil Std ALE and military modem protocol.
              You can check list of the manufacturers and certified radios on
              http://jitc.fhu.disa.mil/projects/hf/index.aspx
              If radio you purchasing not listed you in big risk.
              Also there is number of other points if you like fully compatible radios but also one more point.
              Some regrettable suppliers trying to certify with JITC radio and when they pass test not even put that radio in production.
              You can always ask manufacturer to supply you same software/radio model certifyed by JITC and if you see the problem you can always report to JITC that company cheating.
              Its pitty but such things happen and known.
              There are also external units offering 3G or Mil Std ALE to control your radio.
              Problem with those units are how they going to recognize voice, data or other transmission and they making network much more complicated and slower.
              You can use those units only if you like to different not compatible with each other radios.
              73 Al 4L5A

              Comment

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                #8
                Mil Std 810, IP Standards etc etc.
                Ok What do we need to know about that.
                There is many different standards now and some of them commercial and some militaries.
                You can easily google it.
                Ok if you not sure that equipment meet that requirement ask your supplier to show you tests results.
                Internal factory test is not for what you need to look for serious companies doing such tests with independent labor.
                Again there is always possibility that manufacturer certify radio with labor but not producing such radio and claiming he meet that standards.
                When you will have certificate from labor you can always ask them for explanation why that radio is certified when its dont meet military standard.
                Some time its not easy to test radio of course and you will need another labor to test it but on some point like IP you can get radio or handset or any part of it to water and see if that will work and if not and manufacturer claiming its IP 67 or something like that its mean he lying to you and you need to stay away from such manufacturers.
                73 Al 4L5A

                Comment

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                  #9
                  Support
                  Support is very important part for any kind of the equipment
                  What we need to know?
                  Some manufacturer need export permit for any part of their radio ( like Harris for example) thats make it quite complicated and if your radio will fail you will need to wait for parts some time months :-(.
                  If political situation in your country will change and your country will be under some sanctions you will be not able to get any support for that equipment.
                  Of course local representative or closest service centers.
                  You need to see and check your self how educated those guys are and if they can answer your questions and also if they will be able to support your equipment locally specially if there is small fault.
                  That will save you lot of time and money.
                  I see number of the local dealers in situation when radio is fail they pack it and send to manufacturer to repair you can imagine how long that will take and you cant really expect support from such dealer and you can count he is not exist in your country because that will only delay things.
                  73 Al 4L5A

                  Comment

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                    #10
                    Export permits
                    Export permits is one of the complicated part of purchasing radios.
                    Many manufacturer is do the business internationally.
                    Some of them manufacturing radios with different brand in different countries.
                    You need to remember if your supplier located in US, Australia, Israel .... and you buying equipment from their UK or German office for example you will need export permit not only from country of origin but also from UK or Germany even if you pay money directly to manufacturer and office is involve only in marketing or negotiation.
                    If your supplier dont do that its ILLEGAL and can count as illegal sale and create lot of problem and not only to supplier but also you can be in trouble also.
                    If country of supplier is member of Wassenaar agreement you can ask your supplier if he have license to manufacture encryption units and if its certifyed.
                    Some companies saling encryption illegally and again that can create you problem.
                    More information about wassennaar agreement you can see here
                    http://www.wassenaar.org
                    73 Al 4L5A

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