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Equipment Means Better, Faster Communication for Afghan Army

By Tech. Sgt. Steven Sparks, USAF, and Sgt. Rustin Tu
Special to American Forces Press Service

KABUL, Afghanistan, Jan. 10, 2006 – A new piece of communications equipment is giving Afghan National Army units the capability to stay connected with each other and their operations centers regardless of the distance between them or the types of radios used.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
An Afghan National Army soldier uses the Advanced Control Unit-Tactical to communicate with fellow ANA soldiers. The ACU-T devices allow ANA units communicate with each other easier and faster because it allows connectivity between all types of radios and phones. Photo by Capt. David Huxsoll, USA

(Click photo for screen-resolution image)

The Advanced Control Unit-Tactical, or ACU-T, is designed to serve as a bridge between divergent communications systems to allow communications between ANA units with incompatible radio systems. Produced by Raytheon, the unit is the newest addition to the ANA's communications inventory.

Before the ACU-T, most ANA units used either VHF radios that have a maximum range of 40 kilometers or standard cell phones to contact each other. If the recipient was more than 250 kilometers away or was using a different type of radio, the message had to be relayed.

"The message would be passed from station to station until it was delivered to the intended recipient. This was a very time-consuming process," said Col. Farooq, the 201st Corps radio and telephone repair chief.

The ACU-T eliminates the need for this relay system, drastically cuts the time needed to communicate a message, and allows VHF, HF, cellular and landline phones and radios to communicate with each other.

"It allows the offices that need to act on the message to speak to each other directly with instant responses to questions that may come up," Farooq said.

It works like this: An ACU-T operator in a regional command center receives a call from an ANA unit or base using a VHF radio that is requesting to contact the National Military Command Center in Kabul, which uses an HF radio system. The operator simply connects the two systems using a computer interface on the ACU-T, and the two users are able to communicate and pass information as if they were using the same system or radio type.

Two of 13 planned ACU-T installations are complete - one at the NMCC in Kabul and the other at the 201st Corps Regional Command Center in Pol-e-Charkhi. The installations were completed by a combined team of ANA and U.S. military members.

Once installation is completed at a site, the team trains the ANA personnel assigned to the radio offices on how to operate and maintain the unit.

"The ANA soldiers have really picked up on this training very quickly, and I suspect that they will be in complete control of the installation and training of these units before too much longer," said Lt. Col. Jose Rodriguez, chief of the Defense Reform Directorate's communications section of the Office of Security Cooperation Afghanistan.

(Air Force Tech. Sgt. Steven Sparks and Army Sgt. Rustin Turner are assigned to the Office of Security Cooperation Afghanistan.)

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