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FRS vs Mil Issue Radios

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ZipperHead

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I have to agree with the (sensible) masses on this one. I have found that the Sigs world is increasingly like Chicken Little: the sky is falling!!!! The sky is falling!!!!

I'm sure everyone remembers the kafuffle over the use of FRS (Cobra/Motorola/Radio Shack models, etc) radios in training areas and in ops. I heard so many (admittedly unofficial) reasons for why they couldn't be used: they interfered with "official" frequencies. They weren't "secure" (which falls into the 'Well, duh!!!!!' category). They caused ovarian cancer in males (I just made that one up, but no doubt it has been used). Personally, I think it was because "they" lost control over the air-waves.

The alternative was to use the POS radios that were the alternative (521(???) patrol radios, with the rechargeable batteries that lasted as long as a nervous 17 year old with a hooker) or the non-existent new manpacks, which nobody seemed to know how to use (I knew more before my "official" TCCCS course, which forced all the good, hard-fought corporate knowledge out of my brain, with the ability to hook it up into a WAN and control the Space Shuttle, which we ALL know that the average combat arms type needs to know....).

Personally, I relish stories like the one about buddy who called in arty on himself (notionally, of course). The technophobes like to trot out stories like that to prove that their Luddite ways are right: "...all's I need, dag nab it, is a map, the sun, and a newts tail to figure out where I am. Don't need no newfangled con-traption to know where I is!!!". The reality is that buddy couldn't read a map to save his life, and used the GPS as a crutch. When I was teaching tactics courses with the Coyote, we allowed the student to use the PLGR to confirm where they were. If they started to use it as a crutch, I would pretend to be changing a setting on the CI, and reach back and unplug the antenna lead for the PLGR, and then quiz buddy on where he was. Of course, they would invariably read the grid off of the screen, and spit out the (wrong by about 10km) grid, with all the certainty of someone who was truly screwed, blued, and/or tattoed. I thought it proved a good point (of course, they thought I was mean, but that's OK).

Al
 

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It is always the sigs types who jump up and down and point out the deficiencies in our systems, but when was the last time you actually did something crafty to the enemy?

You spoofed an NCO on an ex in Borden, good for you, lets see you save our skins or locate the bad guys.

I still want to know - is our EW any good against anyone but us?
 

c_canuk

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I personally believe the TCCCS system put a way too complicated radio into the hands of people who just need to be able to talk, and don't need to know how to program the thing, which is what the DTD is for, it can load everything you could possible need to program into the 522 in a short few seconds with only a few commands needed to be known.

The problem is to get the DTD loaded and ready for an exersize is a monumental task because of "other" features and uses which I'm not going into here.

The extention of the TCCCS system will add really great features that will be extremely useful to all branches without adding complexity if we could deploy the DTD in a timely fashion.

for example all the facts needed about an incident involving pte joe infanteer on the front line including video, and text to go with could be passed up the net through to the CO in seconds, rather than hours or days, allowing a faster responce time. Your Recce's data could be sent back to HQ as you head back.

However this is all still theoretical depending on budgets and a loosening of the use of DTDs and whatnot.

EW is very quiet about how good they are and what they can do, however having been on the wrong end of our EW on 2 different occasions, let me tell you, no means of comms is out of their grasp... if they can't decode it they can still find a 10 figure grid of where it came from, and can get data from the most inconcevable things. all electronic devices emit RF Energy unless they are Tempest, EW can locate that.

Now if the Enemy is not using RF, they obviously can't find them.
 

NL_engineer

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Thats why cell/sat. phones should be available as back ups or can our EW interfear with them too ???
 

Posthumane

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Cell/Sat phones are in all likelyhood just as easy to jam / screw with as any other RF device (radio). That being said, it is very unlikely that any current en. would be jamming ALL radio freq, cell phones, sat phones, GPS's, etc. at the same time. Redundancy is key.
 

DG-41

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I personally believe the TCCCS system put a way too complicated radio into the hands of people who just need to be able to talk, and don't need to know how to program the thing

TCCCS suffers from a strong case of "Hardware Engineer Syndrome" where the engineer behind the user interface has designed it to be able to flip the internal states of the device into every possible combination of allowed internal states *without* any real thought as to the TASKS the end-user is intended to do with them.

This also seems coupled to the (entirely sensible) use of off-the-shelf control components, which I also think were selected without thought to the end user interface. "I've got a 12 button keypad and 4 6-position rotary switches - how can I configure these so I can flip every internal state register?"

This is not unique to the Army, BTW. It's endemic in all sorts of bespoke electronic controllers. You should see the programming software for the electronic control module for the engine on my race car (which has admittedly gotten much better now that enough people yelled at the manufacturer - but the original software just let you plug values into control registers with no thought to what the registers did, or more importantly, how they interacted)

TCCCS could be made far, far easier to deal with if the user interface were reconfigured from an end-user-task point of view. As it is right now, the interface is so bizzare that it encourages rote memorization of the proper key sequences to get the thing to do what you want it to do, instead of actually understanding the equipment and setting it in the proper state for the task at hand.

At times, TCCCS feels more like an engineering proof-of-concept prototype, rather than a finished, deployable system.

DG
 

Carbon-14

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actually I find once you spend a year using it constantly, it becomes very intuitive on what is going on.

The problem is that there are way too many features that while necessary for future developments, don't need to be accessable through the control panel as they rely on information fed to the radio with the DTD anyway... so hide most of the complex functions and simplify the manual interface.

The idea behind the 522 is to combine the many simple componets one can assemble to do a particular comms task, into one all knowing all seeing all capable box that can be in a vehicle OR or on someones back, instead of what we had before which was 3-10 separate boxes that were not quite 100% compatible with eachother that could only be vehicle mounted, not manpacked, thus not helping the man on the ground. Only the 522 gives you this flexibility. You can buy off the shelf componets that are better, but once assembled, could not be man packable.

Sat comms are just as easy to affect and track by EW, and especially cell phones and remember they don't need to understand the signal to track it and pass the info on to arty.

Back on topic though, while Civy GPS are unlikely to be detected by any enemy we face today, they could with sufficient motivation acquire the means to do so, so keep it as a back up, and not a primary means of nav... which any good navigator should be doing anyway.
 

chrisf

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Carbon-14 said:
actually I find once you spend a year using it constantly, it becomes very intuitive on what is going on.

Are you referring to TCCCS in general or any particular component? As I find the whole system over-complicated and under-useful, despite having a fairly good grasp of it.

The problem is that there are way too many features that while necessary for future developments, don't need to be accessable through the control panel as they rely on information fed to the radio with the DTD anyway... so hide most of the complex functions and simplify the manual interface.

The same logic that produced the 521, which can't be programmed without a j-box, and even with a j-box, there are critical parts of the programming that can't be changed without a lap-top.

The idea behind the 522 is to combine the many simple componets one can assemble to do a particular comms task, into one all knowing all seeing all capable box that can be in a vehicle OR or on someones back, instead of what we had before which was 3-10 separate boxes that were not quite 100% compatible with eachother that could only be vehicle mounted, not manpacked, thus not helping the man on the ground. Only the 522 gives you this flexibility. You can buy off the shelf componets that are better, but once assembled, could not be man packable.

Have you had the opportunity to use the 138 or at least a QRT? Harris makes some lovely and relatively simply radios...

In my own personal oppinion, the absolute best option in terms of a manpack would be a heavily updated version of the 77 set, virtually indestructible, and virtually idiot proof controls... beyond that, the forces should (And is) investing in the new generation of Harris multi-band radios. Haven't had a chance to use them, but based solely on my experience with their HF radios, I'm going to say they'll be a wise buy. Simple to use menu based text interfaces, as well as a huge number of options and accessories, plus can be used for all radio bands.

Sat comms are just as easy to affect and track by EW, and especially cell phones and remember they don't need to understand the signal to track it and pass the info on to arty.

Sat comms are harder to jam then other radio means, but of course it can still be done, using relatively un-sophisticated technology. Of course, if you don't know what a signal is that's being produced, no sense in dropping an arty strike on it, as it could easily be a red-herring.

And of course, as jamming is, as far as I know, always "active" (Versus passive technologies) it's relatively easy to direction find the source and send it to meet it's maker in any situation where you have air-superiority.

Back on topic though, while Civy GPS are unlikely to be detected by any enemy we face today, they could with sufficient motivation acquire the means to do so, so keep it as a back up, and not a primary means of nav... which any good navigator should be doing anyway.

Unless it's got a built in transmitter (Example the ones with built in FRS radios) I can't see any reasonable (And very few un-reasonable) ways to detect a civvy GPS. The only caution against civvy GPS units is that the GPS sattelites can be encrypted, either globally, or over specific areas, to prevent enemy forces from using their own GPS units, and only military GPS recievers with loaded crypto can be used.
 

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RecceDG said:
TCCCS could be made far, far easier to deal with if the user interface were reconfigured from an end-user-task point of view. As it is right now, the interface is so bizzare that it encourages rote memorization of the proper key sequences to get the thing to do what you want it to do, instead of actually understanding the equipment and setting it in the proper state for the task at hand.

At times, TCCCS feels more like an engineering proof-of-concept prototype, rather than a finished, deployable system.

DG

You are exactly right, as to how rote memorisation is used to operate tics, and this is how it is taught as well.

TCCCS does not require half of the features that it has, a quality walkie talkie with encryption and a keypad would do the trick.
 

chrisf

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GO!!! said:
TCCCS does not require half of the features that it has, a quality walkie talkie with encryption and a keypad would do the trick.

The concept behind the horribly executed 521 LAR. Apparently the manufacturer makes a version with a key-pad, but for some god-unknown reason, we didn't buy it. In fact, I'm not entirely sure why one would buy the version *with* a key-pad, as it's a terribly heavy thing for it's function.

I'd disagree, off the top of my head, even in man-pack set-up, the only feature that it (I'm assuming we're talking about the 522) has that it doesn't need is the super-mode (Which was a silly and confusing feature for tactical VHF anyway as far as I can see). What is on it however can be heavily simplified and lightened, and the frame is simply a piece of garbage.

That being said, there's a plain ol' encrypted walkie talkie in the system already, it's called the Sabre as far as I know, the manufacturer doesn't make them any more, and as they're damaged, they're not replaced (The manufacturer makes an updated version, but I can't recall off the top of my head why they're not a being replaced with those).

As well, I'm not familiar with the PRR, but I'm guessing that also fills said niche?
 

NL_engineer

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Just a Sig Op,
Does the 521 with a keypad have the same 10m range as the ones we have ???. Last time I used the 521s we quickly ditched them for FRS' because we needed something small with a range greater then 10m.

The TCCCS would be much better if it were lighter; then at least the radio person can move at the same speed as the rest of the sect.
 

George Wallace

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If you don't like the weight of the 521, you sure would not have liked to carry the 25 or 77 Sets, or even the 515's.  What is this world coming too?


Edited for thread continuity
 

chrisf

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NL_engineer said:
Just a Sig Op,
Does the 521 with a keypad have the same 10m range as the ones we have ???. Last time I used the 521s we quickly ditched them for FRS' because we needed something small with a range greater then 10m.

It's the same basic radio, just has a key-pad instead of relying on the J-Box, as such, one would assume it's just as useless, only with buttons.

The TCCCS would be much better if it were lighter; then at least the radio person can move at the same speed as the rest of the sect.

Would everyone please stop referring to a man pack as "TCCCS". The man-pack is just one compent in a much larger system of TCCCS (Tactical Command Control System) garbage :)

And to George Wallace, the 522 replaced the 25 and 77 sets as the manpack, it's actually heavier, with about 3 times the range, whereas the 521 set has about a quarter of the range of a 77 set. The problem is, the 521 was bought for section level comms (And has since been more or less superceeded by the PRR as near as I can figure), but for it's capability, it weighs far too much, considering it's got less capabilities then an FRS radio (Ignoring the encryption).

You'll forgive me but I'm not familiar with the 515 set.
 

c_canuk

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First I want to mention that the previous post by corbon-14 was actually me, He’s deployed with me, and I forgot to check to see if I was logged in as the right person…

“Are you referring to TCCCS in general or any particular component? As I find the whole system over-complicated and under-useful, despite having a fairly good grasp of it.”

In Particular the 522, but from what I’ve been exposed to, all of it gets intuitive. Yes 99% of it is for sig ops only, not for the man on the frontline, but with proper deployment of kit, that shouldn’t be a problem(DTD), yeah it’s more complicated than the 77/46 sets, but it’s high time we moved on from the Vacuum tube era.

If there are no new features everyone would be itching about what a waste of money to go to new highspeed kit that doesn’t do anything new.

If we are going to upgrade there is no point on doing so if we don’t get added features, and with added features comes added complexity. We pride ourselves in the fact that we know how to work all the whiz bang equipment, I don't understand when people say it does too much, we should go back to the stone age. There is a reason we deploy at least a CP with every unit in operations. It is our job to figure out how to use this stuff and make it simple to understand for others, it's what being a sig op is all about.

The same logic that produced the 521, which can't be programmed without a j-box, and even with a j-box, there are critical parts of the programming that can't be changed without a lap-top.”

Well to the extreme yes, what I’m saying is that switching modes, volume/squelch and the ability to program channels is all most people need. Everything else could be DTD stored, and a lot of those higher funtions don't work without certain things from the DTD anyway.

Yeah, I found that out the hardway when teaching it to some infanteers before... that problem is not well documented.

The 521 removed the ability to program in channels by the operator, which of course was a mistake and is the only real problem with the 521, besides the 521 is meant for inter section communication, the 522 is for higher level comms.

Have you had the opportunity to use the 138 or at least a QRT?”

yeah, and a 138 or LCT/QRT installation decked out with all the kit that it needs to do what the 522 can do, is not even close to man packable.

In my own personal oppinion, the absolute best option in terms of a manpack would be a heavily updated version of the 77 set, virtually indestructible, and virtually idiot proof controls”

that’s pretty much what a 522 is, you can turn it on and throw a freq into the scratchpad in seconds, that is essentially all you could do with a 77 set

basic comms are easy to set up on it. If you don’t use it it looks scary but it’s easy to get it going for simple 77 set style comms.

Sure the 77 set was robust, but all it could do was simple coms, you could add crypto as a separate unit doubling the weight, but nothing else, there is a reason we are upgrading.

(I'm assuming we're talking about the 522) has that it doesn't need is the super-mode (Which was a silly and confusing feature for tactical VHF anyway as far as I can see). What is on it however can be heavily simplified and lightened, and the frame is simply a piece of garbage

Even the Harris radios have similar functionality, you can use Super for voice but it’s meant for data. It's the radio worlds version of IP addresses.

The reasons we use the same radio across the board is so that anyone who has a spare radio can lend it to anyone else for any purpose with no problems, and 2 it kept our cost down, so we didn’t have to engineer a separate radio for everyone which would be a lot more expensive

and the frame is simply a piece of garbage
When using the original battery the frame is great however we are using the adapter plate on them so we can use the smaller batteries, which makes it incompatible with the harness, use the harness for the 138 on a 522, works great.

The TCCCS would be much better if it were lighter; then at least the radio person can move at the same speed as the rest of the sect

it is lighter compared to what it does… there is no other system out there that can do what TCCCS does in one package at the same weight (that I know of anyway), the 77 set with crypto was much heavier than the 522

If you don't like the weight of the 521, you sure would not have liked to carry the 25 or 77 Sets, or even the 515's.  What is this world coming too?

hehehe, and some are advocating we go back to those beasts… I believe the 522 with the battery box adapter instead of the black screw on batteries actually weighs a bit more than the 77 basic, haven’t used a 77 in years though, so I couldn’t tell ya… if I get time, maybe I’ll see if I can look up the weight of the radio’s

Does the 521 with a keypad have the same 10m range as the ones we have. Last time I used the 521s we quickly ditched them for FRS' because we needed something small with a range greater then 10m.

if you use the short whip your range is only 100m max, this is by design, as it’s for inter trench or section comms… where you don’t want to eminate much at all, so the enemy can’t DF your position easily, use the 3 foot whip for up to 3 km max range. The idea is that everyone in your section has one, so they can keep in contact with eachother at all times, but not give away their position or data to the enemy with large eminations that can be DF'ed easily or Intercepted. The 521 has whisper modes on it, so your whole section can me up to 100m apart, but keep eachother informed fo the situation with a whisper, and in emergencyies when your 522 is kaput, you can put on a 3 foot whip and get longer range comms. That is the sole idea behind the 521.


The TCCCS would be much better if it were lighter; then at least the radio person can move at the same speed as the rest of the sect.”
I think that’s always been a problem =)
 

DG-41

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The concept behind the 522 set is perfectly sound, and it seems to work just fine (I haven't had the opportunity to try freq hopping or crypto). There are issues related to battery recharging, but those are supply issues, not technology issues.

The big problem with the 522 set is the user inteface. It uses overloaded controls (controls that serve multiple functions) grouped in such a manner as to disguise their function. There's nothing there that any user couldn't learn to make use of (and I agree that functionality should not be removed) but the obtuse user interface makes using the thing overly difficult.

The CI box suffers from the same problem, just exectuted in a different manner. With the CI box, you have multiple-nested menus, all of which need the magic values set to the right pattern, or no worky. Those menus *could* have been set up in a task-oriented pattern (instead of reflecting the internal data structures of the box) and prompted the user for the data needed to set up that task, instead of making the user memorise rote patterns of "magic" button-presses.

The TCCCS stuff appears to be great kit ruined by a horrible user interface - thus my comment about "engineering prototype". The user interface is *great* if you are a TCCCS development engineer who knows the internal structure of the devices and need the ability to flip the states of individual control registers. It's *horrible* if you just want your CI box to talk to the damn radio.

The 521, however, not only suffers from a poor user interface (can't set frequencies? What, are you kidding?) but the damn thing just doesn't work. We were issued 521s for inter-vehicle coms one ex, and even with the big antenna, we had 521s that wouldn't transmit 100m.

DG
 

Kat Stevens

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Yes, but can a 522 set tell you where you are when you're out snowshoeing around Elk Island park?  How clear is the mapping?  If it's any good, what does one cost civy side?
 

c_canuk

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The CI box suffers from the same problem, just exectuted in a different manner. With the CI box, you have multiple-nested menus, all of which need the magic values set to the right pattern, or no worky. Those menus *could* have been set up in a task-oriented pattern (instead of reflecting the internal data structures of the box) and prompted the user for the data needed to set up that task, instead of making the user memorise rote patterns of "magic" button-presses.

I agree with you 100%, but I've also used many task oriented menus that prompt for mystery variables that no one seems to know what they do, they just always set it to default or some other value... with the menu system as it is, you have to think about it from a per peice of equipment point of view, first I control my radios, then I Configure my CI... the training aids don't reflect that type of thinking, but it is effective, and as long as you understand how the equipment is working, it's not so much magic button presses, it's more scrolling through the menu to see what option you want... I can't really say either method is better, but from someone who is not interested in learning what each bit flip does, a task oriented method would be better... perhaps you could draw up what it would work like with the current CI and submit it up for the next reflash.

Kat Stevens, I laughed for about a minute at that, thanks =)

Perhaps some kind moderator could split this hijack off to a seperate thread
 

DG-41

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perhaps you could draw up what it would work like with the current CI and submit it up for the next reflash.

Ah, CRAP. You're going to make me work, aren't you?  :p

I'll see what I can come up with.

DG
 

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George Wallace said:
So this has become a Hijack and Radios are now the Topic?

If you don't like the weight of the 521, you sure would not have liked to carry the 25 or 77 Sets, or even the 515's.  What is this world coming too?

I've seen or used all of the above systems except the 515, and the 522 is the heaviest and most complicated, even more so with the DTD, batteries and all of the cheat sheets necessary to make the stupid thing work.

The 521 is a paperweight, whoever bought them should be forced to use one for a week or so.

The point has been brought up that the PRR will replace the 521 - well, the eggheads tell us that since they are "not sufficiently encrypted" that they are "useless" so I'm not sure why we have them. A 50$ motorola still performs far better, so I'm not sure what the solution is.

I am still waiting for an EW type to supply an instance when they have used their supposedly stupendous powers on anyone but us or our allies in the current operational context.
 
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