23 May 06. BATTLESPACE Editor Julian Nettlefold was amongst the guests to celebrate 50 years of Roke Manor. Formerly part of the Plessey empire, Roke Manor was acquired by GEC and Siemens in the 1990 carve up and then wholly acquired by Siemens in 1991 in a smart move that would have avoided GEC’s share going to the liquidator and sold to the highest bidder. Rumour has it that Lord Weinstock, never a great supporter of company funded R&D, was more interested in the huge wine cellar owned by the Clarke brothers rather than the technology at Roke and arrived in his Bentley to chose the best bottles before Siemens management arrived!
After acquiring the Roke Manor estate in 1956, the Plessey Company founded Roke Manor Research. Initially staffed by 28 engineers, the company undertook research into military communications systems. Throughout the 1960s, 70s and 80s, Roke Manor Research grew considerably as the site’s reputation attracted key technology contracts in communications and radar. Initially most of the work was for defence applications, but in the mid 1980s work began on Asynchronous Transfer Mode (ATM) switching for the commercial telecommunications market and GSM cellular telephony.
Following the take-over of Plessey by Siemens and GEC in 1990, Siemens took part-ownership of Roke Manor Research in 1990. In 1991, GEC sold its 50% share holding in Roke Manor Research and the company became wholly owned by Siemens.
Today, it is recognised as a centre of excellence in the UK for research and development.
Certainly there were some very exciting technologies on display covering all aspects of industry from medical thru traffic to defence.
Defence products on show included the Halo artillery locating system to a small UAV altimeter, part of a growing range off Roke UAV products. It should not be forgotten that Roke developed the Ptarmigan system, the forerunner of the cellular phone system, a technology used extensively by Roke. On exciting new product was the Spinner, a revolutionary remote sensing system using 3G technology to link its systems, that include a mini-video camera, to Command Centres. The technology could also sense the arrival of UAVs through sensing of the mobile network.
The company has recently won an MoD DPA Study contract for the Close Quarter NCW requirement which covers the use of infantry systems in Urban environments. Roke told BATTLESPACE that the company was working closely with the Thales FIST team to study the use of current FIST technology for urban requirements. Sources suggest that FIST may not meet Main Gate by November given the new requirements coming from urban operations in Iraq. The system may be acquired incrementally and not in one large buy.
Roke Manor is also a member of the fourth Defence Technology Centre. A new community for scientific excellence that will explore innovative new technologies in the fast-developing world of autonomous and semi-autonomous vehicles.
The fourth Defence Technology Centre – the Systems Engineering Autonomous Systems Centre – is a pioneering collaboration between MoD, industry and leading academia.
It will play a key role in developing new technologies that will underpin equipment programmes of the future, such as unmanned aircraft and remote-controlled submersibles.
Final contractual agreement has been reached with a consortium led by BAE Systems. Other members of the consortium are CAE (UK), MDBA, Rolls-Royce, Roke Manor Research, AMS and Smiths Aerospace. Subcontractors include QinetiQ together with a number of Universities.
Roke has considerable experience in the field of Networked Enabled Capability, which it is bringing to bear in the NCW Close Quarter study. With a broad range of technical skills Roke has a complete insight into the operation of Network Enabled Capability systems so that sensors, commanders, and weapon systems can be successfully linked in the battlespace. The company specialises in providing resilience