Naval/maritime forces are tasked to support a wide variety of operations across the full range of peacetime, crisis and wartime missions. But there remain capabilities gaps, especially in the field of shipborne measures to defend against new forms of symmetric and asymmetric threats. New technologies have been sought to fill the gap. A robust Communications Intelligence (COMINT) capability is needed for naval operations in the 2020s. Capability upgrades and the replacement of legacy equipment with state-of-the-art systems will form the basis for an extended capability. There is a tendency whereby real-time COMINT functions will be increasingly fulfilled by the variety of platforms – from patrol vessels to larger combatants such as frigates and destroyers. COMINT systems fitted to them represent contributions to naval defence-in-depth, which includes littoral and open ocean operations involving surveillance, early warning and counter-piracy actions, as well as surveillance and intelligence-gathering.

Supporting this emerging process, Germany’s Rohde & Schwarz (R&S) developed a COMINT solution that was designed as a stand-alone solution or subsystem for full integration on board any kinds of platforms. A major performance characteristic is its interoperability with other platform subsystems, according to R&S’ Bosco Novak, Executive Vice President, Monitoring and Network Testing. The system can be introduced into new-construction assets and backfitted into older platforms to build-up an advanced COMINT capability. The solution contributes to the ship’s alertness, enhances situational awareness and efficiently supports well-directed missions by gaining access to data from intercepted communications and by triggering immediate alarms. It collects valuable information for fleet-wide intelligence. R&S’ multichannel naval COMINT system makes it possible to define automatic detection and surveillance tasks. As an integrated monitoring, direction finding (DF) and analysis software, it automatically processes fixed-frequency, as well as frequency agile signals (‘hoppers’) and handles all types of high-frequency/very high-frequency/ultra-high-frequency (HF/VHF/UHF) radio communications. The system automatically detects, classifies, demodulates and decodes signals and provides a real-time display of the results.

The wideband receiver with digital down converters (DDCs) allows multi-channel monitoring of a scalable number of frequencies in parallel. Its signal processing functions include: interception of voice signals; demodulation and decoding of digital transmissions; automatic classification and content production; and digital signal recording and replay.

The open system architecture allows users to develop their own decoders with the aid of a toolset that is provided with the system. It features additional capabilities for data import and export, and it includes a database that handles all gathered information. Integrated algorithms recognize communications networks by matching intercepted results with emitter data in the database and update the situation picture accordingly.

Stefan Nitschke



For many years, COMINT has been brought into a wider focus of naval/maritime forces. The multichannel naval COMINT system offered by Rohde & Schwarz detects and monitors communications in the HF/VHF/UHF frequency bands. (Photo: Rohde & Schwarz)

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