In 2007, personnel from an RN warship were captured at gunpoint by foreign forces while on board a deployed seaboat on routine patrol in international waters.

The incident highlighted communication shortcomings in RN boarding operations and the introduction of an ‘all informed’ secure command net, that could include the Boarding Officer, his deputy, the seaboat’s Coxswain and other supporting platforms – some of which could be over the horizon and beyond line of sight – was recommended.

The challenge

To provide a secure voice and data communications network, using existing and proven architecture, between the mother warship, the RHIB crew and the Boarding Officer that would provide sustained situational awareness in support of boarding operations.

The solution

The solution was to exploit the incumbent BOWMAN radio equipment on-board the mother warship, and provide the seaboat with a corresponding system that was fully enclosed in a robust – and easily transferable – IP67-rated enclosure. The system would incorporate a rebroadcast capability via an Incident Commander Radio Interface to enable an ‘all informed’ Command Net.

Following initial briefings, STS Defence demonstrated its capability to react quickly and efficiently to urgent requirements whilst maintaining its reputation for engineering excellence.

Development and manufacture, initial installation and setting to work, along with the project safety case, were completed within two months and were followed by trials in UK waters and full installation and setting to work in theatre less than two months after that.

The results

The enhanced boarding communication capability is currently fitted to a number of platforms and helicopters. For the first time, the improved communications architecture links all aspects of the boarding team on one single, secure net with a limited asset tracking capability.