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By Adam Baddeley, Deputy Editor BATTLESPACE

05 Jul 05. ITT UK has won a competition to provide its Bowman PRC-340 High Capacity Data Radios (HCDR) to Belgium. ITT did not comment of the outcome of the programme, considered an open secret amongst those working on Bowman. Numbers are small, less than a hundred, but this is considered sufficient to support large-scale mechanised experimentation. If these are successful, further sales are expected to equip units across the armed forces. Belgium currently fields two mechanised brigades and a further brigade sized light formation.

The competitor against the HCDR in Belgium was Raytheon’s Enhanced Position Location Reporting System (EPLRS). This is the first time ITT the two radios have met head-to-head, following the General Dynamics’ Bowman bid beat that of TRW’s solution, which included EPLRS.

This is the first example of the export of the HCDR independently of the Bowman system. ITT confirmed that there is widespread interest in the HCDR internationally, and that they would shortly begin undertaking a demonstration of the HCDR for an Eastern European NATO member. There has been a flutter of export related activity for Bowman recently. The largest example was the widely expected decision by the Royal Netherlands Marine Corps (RNLMC) to acquire Bowman in a Euro 94million deal announced in April.

ITT began marketing the “Export” Bowman Tactical Communication System with its launch at Eurosatory last year consisting of the company’s own VHF and UHF range together with ancillaries and also includes the now BAE Systems’ Communications Management System. Now called Centaur overall, the VHF element based around the PRC-355 ADR+ was submitted for evaluation for Austria’s CONRAD (Combat Net Radio) programme for a battalion plus sized requirement for peacekeeping. Harris also began shipping the Bowman HF PRC-325 Manpack to an undisclosed Southern African customer earlier this year for the factory it shares with ITT.

It is understood that, like the Royal Netherlands Marine Corps, Belgium will receive identical HCDRs to those provided to Britain’s Armed Forces including Pritchell encryption and ECCM, even down to the use of English on the radio itself. Training of Belgian forces in the radio is due to begin very soon. ITT is now working with EADS to offer countries the option of an encryption solution other than Pritchell if that is required. EADS Defence and Security Systems are providing the Key Variable Messaging System (KVMS) to Bowman developed by the then Cogent. This was the only Archer-era item that was mandated when the UK chose to remove Archer and rebid the programme in 2000.

The UK’s is continuing to test the HCDR for the completion of the Bowman The Bowman trials unit intend to undertake trial, which will involve 70-80 radios in an exercise on Salisbury Plain in July. A further test involving 120 HCDRs is scheduled for September.

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