Army gets a $98m communications upgrade

The Australian Army is embarking on three projects worth almost $309 million to upgrade its capabilities, including a $98 million project to upgrade the communications network.

The army will replace its current 1970s analogue-based communications system that is largely limited to voice messages with a new Web-type communications network under a $97.6 million project called Battlespace Communications Systems (Land) (BCSL).

The BCSL project will enable soldiers to exchange, not only voice, but also images, video and data on the battlefield.

A deployable brigade-sized joint task force will be equipped with the new digital communications from 2005 under the first phase of this project.

"Modern warfare requires that battlefield commanders get swift access to information to plan and conduct operations," Defence Minister Senator Robert Hill said.

"As the Air Force and Navy modernise their communications, a Defence-wide network will be established making our defence force more effective on the ground, in the air and at sea."

Defence spokesperson Richard Hogan said the decision "clears the way for Defence to develop our operational concepts and equipment acquisition strategy".

However, he was unable to comment further on "the finer details of project scope, tendering processes or timing".

The army will also spend a $173 million to equip infantry, special forces and cavalry units with medium range direct fire weapons and an extra $38.23 million on a improving the Army's vehicle fleet.

Hogan said Defence would announce timing on the RFTs for all three projects sometime early next year.

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