Link Microtek wins order to supply secure optical mobile local communications for Type 26 frigates
Link Microtek has received an order worth approximately £750,000 from Rohde & Schwarz to supply its Azdec secure optical MLC (mobile local communications) systems for installation on the first three of the Royal Navy’s planned class of eight Type 26 frigates, which are due to enter service from the mid-2020s.
Rohde & Schwarz is responsible for the supply and integration of all communications systems on board the new Type 26 vessels, having been selected for this task by prime contractor BAE Systems. The Azdec optical MLC system provides naval personnel with totally secure, interference-free voice communications while allowing them to roam away from their base positions, unhindered by any trailing wires. There are no RF emissions and the optical signals cannot be intercepted by any conventional method, so it is impossible for anyone to jam the transmissions or eavesdrop on what is being said.
Commenting on the order, Link Microtek’s managing director Steve Cranstone said: “Our Azdec optical communications technology is already in operation on a variety of Royal Navy vessels, such as Type 45 destroyers and Type 23 frigates, and we are delighted to receive this latest order as part of the Type 26 integrated communications programme. It further demonstrates the suitability of the Azdec system for shipborne MLC applications where the highest levels of security and wire-free ease of mobility are the main requirements.” The company will be supplying complete systems for installation on HMS Glasgow, HMS Belfast and HMS Cardiff, together with smaller-scale versions for the land-based integration facility that is being used to test and verify the functionality of the entire Type 26 communications system. Deliveries will be completed by 2021.
Each vessel will be equipped with two separate 8-channel Azdec systems, comprising a total of two base stations, 31 fixed infrared antennas, 16 binaural headsets, 32 operators’ belt-mounted battery-pack/control units and four battery-charging units. One system will cater for the bridge and bridge wings while the other one serves the operations room; both will be integrated into the ship’s main communications system. The optical digital encoding technology at the heart of the Azdec system is completely immune to radio, radar and electrical noise – even severe energy pulses – and has no effect on sensitive electronic equipment. Furthermore, the Type 26 system is compatible with the use of night vision goggles and fully satisfies the MoD’s TEMPEST requirements. It also carries a Class 1 product designation as defined by the EN 60825-1 standard, which means it presents no ocular or other health hazard to users. The picture shows a typical Azdec optical communications system in use on the bridge of HMS Iron Duke, one of the Royal Navy’s Type 23 frigates.