Despite Problems, UK Moves Ahead with $376M Bowman Radio Upgrade
June 23/15: The British Ministry of Defence is looking to develop a replacement for the problematic Bowman radio system. The MoD has invited academics and industry to suggest new solutions to land and littoral communications, with the project known as Morpheus. The hope is that innovative solutions will be borne from the open discussion and collaboration, with this likely to form the basis of the MoD’s procurement strategy for the UK Armed Forces’ new communications system over the next three decades.
The UK’s Bowman tactical communications system, which replaced the aging Clansman system, has encountered some problems with troops deployed in Afghanistan. The Bowman radios carried by the soldiers have a short battery life and are heavy. There is also a shortage of ancillary equipment, such as antennas and speakers, according to a May 14/09 report by the UK National Audit Office (NAO).
As DID reported earlier, a 2006 NAO report had identified a number of serious problems with the Bowman system resulting from the radical changes in communications technology and needs since the program was conceived in the 1980s. The report identified as issues the vast growth in bandwidth requirements due to UAVs et. al. transmitting video, the need for far greater capabilities without providing more money, the lack of robustness and modifiability in its closed architecture software systems, the effects of Bowman’s lack of definition on training and doctrine, and the effects of the program on the decimated British tactical radio industry.
DID has more on the Bowman system upgrades…
The Bowman system has been developed and integrated by General Dynamics UK into over 13,000 British Army vehicles, together with headquarters, ships, and helicopters. The MOD recently purchased an additional 2,139 radios, with an option for a further 437, in order to meet the demands of current operations and their associated training needs.
Under the new contracts, General Dynamics UK will provide improved performance and sustainability, increased quantities of equipment to meet shortages, improvements to planning and system management applications, improved interoperability with other UK and allied systems, and improved combat infrastructure platform (CIP) support.
The first contract, known as Capability Release 1.5, is worth £119 million ($194 million) and will update and refresh the system’s capabilities over its lifetime to reflect advances in technology. The second contract, valued at £112 million ($182 million), will provide longer term technical support for the Bowman program, including repair, field services and provision of spares. The work will help sustain several hundred jobs at the General Dynamics’ Oakdale site in South Wales, UK.
To beef up the ancillary equipment, General Dynamics last month ordered $16 million worth of radios and equipment from subcontractor ITT Defence. The company supplies VHF and UHF radios, associated networking equipment and the data backbone for the Bowman system. The radios are manufactured at ITT’s Basingstoke, UK facility.