Configurable Communications Masts

A key mission enabler to any modern warship is the ability to function seamlessly within multiple communications networks, using a wide range of bearers. Whilst competing for valuable deck space with other platform sensors, weapons, machinery and landing areas, antenna configurations must be optimal with respect to coverage and operational efficiency.

STS Defence is contracted by Rohde & Schwarz to lead the design and development of the configurable communications masts on the Royal Navy’s future Type 26, City class frigate.

Type 26 masts

These twin masts will be mounted above the mission bay to provide space for a variety of antennas and isolation screens. The starboard mast will predominantly be used for U/VHF communications, with 4G, GPS and ship-to-shore satellite communications antennas on the port mast.

The challenge is to optimise deck space by mounting communication and sensor antennas on structural masts, delivering continuous 360° coverage and providing the required frequency isolation to manage electromagnetic interference, whilst allowing technology to evolve through obsolescence, design changes and upgrades with minimum impact.

Extensive computer modelling of the masts’ RF performance and structural characteristics has been performed which has led to the achievement of Lloyd’s accreditation.

Type 26 polemast

We are also the Design Authority for the mast which provides the communications antenna suite for the Type 45 platform. We were recently tasked by Thales UK to undertake a mid-life upgrade which included the replacement of the upper section of the mast with a new sensor antenna array.

This new requirement had to be integrated within an existing section of the operational mast, increasing the overall mass whilst maintaining the original natural frequency of the platform. A comprehensive design solution was produced, detailing general arrangement and manufacturing drawings of the mast, including antenna arrangements and cable management. We also undertook the full mechanical and electrical manufacture and assembly of the mast and integration phases that included RF performance and testing.

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