New body worn antennas are changing how soldiers operate on the battlefield – making them safer, more manoeuvrable and more efficient.
Antennas are vital for operations but no soldier wants to stand out as a target which is where traditional ‘whip’ antenna have their limitations as they have a large visual signature, not to mention hindering mobility or being prone to snagging.
A new system developed by the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL), based at Porton Down, Wiltshire, overcomes such limitations by packing advanced tech discreetly into the area around the body.
It also brings with it a raft of new technological advances and increased performance.
Electronic warfare equipment has traditionally employed large vertical omnidirectional antennas.
However, existing equipment has in the past presented operational challenges for their users - they are low gain, highly visible, and can limit manoeuvrability in operational environments.
DSTL’s new equipment aims to make those obstacles a thing of the past.
Forces Radio BFBS reporter Chris Sturgess took a look at this new piece of kit and spoke to some of those behind the new tech at DSTL.
Its new design is a way of replacing a traditional stick or whip antenna for a dismounted soldier or for someone else in the commercial or civilian arena, such as search and rescue where improved mobility has major benefits.
Unlike an antenna that rises up as a flexible wire or rod, these systems are tucked away.
Gordon Scott, of Ploughshare Innovations, the commercialisation arm of DSTL, said:
“One of the main benefits of it is that you no longer have that visual signature – you can’t see the person that is wearing the antenna, there’s no big stick above their heads, and therefore you’re not going to pick them out above the crowd.
“The aerials themselves, some of them quite small, some of them get a little bit larger, all sit within the body area.
“The whole man-pack they might be wearing will be lighter. Anything that can reduce the weight is going to be a massive bonus and anything that reduces visual signature - so people are safer, and anything that is not going to break so often - is clearly an advantage to people wearing any type of kit, whether it’s military or non-military.
“The battery requirements for a device like this are lower because it performs better than a standard aerial, so that is a really big benefit for them, not having to carry so much around.
“They’ll also notice that it won’t snag so easily. It’s more rugged and won’t damage so easily in the field, so there’s quite a few benefits for the actual soldier.”