SINCGARS Radio System Remains Secure, Expert Says
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Oct. 19, 2006 U.S. servicemembers can use the SINCGARS radio system with confidence, officials with the Army’s Communications-Electronics Command at Fort Monmouth, N.J., said today.
James Bowden, project leader for the single-channel ground and airborne radio system, said recent media articles claim that Hezbollah used advanced technology to crack Israeli communications during the fighting in Lebanon.
The articles allege that the group used technology from Iran to thwart Israeli tank attacks, Bowden said, adding that some servicemembers have expressed the fear that Hezbollah or Iran has shared this technology with extremists in Iraq.
But the articles are wrong, Bowden asserted. The Israelis do not use the U.S. SINCGARS system, but rather they use another frequency-hopping technology, he said.
Frequency hopping means messages switch among dozens of frequencies per second to evade being jammed or intercepted, Bowden said.
“We are concerned, because these articles lead people to think that SINCGARS is vulnerable, and that this technology is available to bad guys,” Bowden said. “This is not the case. The Israelis do not have SINCGARS radios. They have another frequency-hopping radio that does not have the U.S. frequency-hopping algorithm, does not use the U.S. communications security devices and does not use the U.S. transmission security devices. All three provide robust protection for U.S. SINCGARS.”
Those three pieces of the SINCGARS provide servicemembers with assured communications security when they follow proper communications procedures, Bowden said. Servicemembers deploying to Iraq should take all normal precautions, but they do not need to distrust their communications, he said.
He said some soldiers have called the office with concerns about communications security in light of these articles. “We want to make it clear that they do not have a problem,” he said. “SINCGARS is the robust type of communications they need to protect against these kinds of threats.”
His office has sent messages to the field with this same information. Servicemembers with questions or concerns should e-mail Bowden at James.Bowden@us.army.mil. He noted that he has been working on SINCGARS since the 1980s and can answer any questions about it.