The 75th Ranger Regiment is a lethal, agile and flexible force, capable of executing a myriad of complex, joint special operations missions in support of U.S. policy and objectives. Today’s Ranger Regiment is the Army’s premier raiding force. With complexity came the need for smaller, robust command and control, and communications capabilities that could be quickly inserted and exfilled onto and off of the Ranger objectives.
Early-on, Ranger Commanders quickly realized that they needed a more robust command and control communications capability. Early single-channel and tactical satellite (TacSat) systems that came in by air-drop, helicopter air assault, airland operations or over-land were deemed not sufficient. Signal leaders and Ranger NCOs worked tirelessly to develop small mobile platforms that could be used for lighting quick raid operations. These platforms needed to be rugged, easy to operate, dependable, capable of carrying all of their communications equipment and, most importantly, able to fit onto US Air Force fixed wing aircraft; C-130’s, C-141’s, C-5’s, (and later, the C-17), as well as US Air Force Special Operations MH-53 Pavelow Special Operations helicopters and US Army and USMC CH46 and CH47 variant helicopters.
Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, and the start of the Global War on Terror, the Rangers’ primary Assault Communications platform was based on the British Land Rover. These platforms were customized and fielded to the Regimental Signal Detachment and each of the three Ranger Battalions to support secure single-channel FM, UHF and VHF as, well as secure TacSat radios. Secure Communications could be accomplished on-the-move and halt as well as remoted into buildings and structures via radio remote systems. The Rangers were instrumental in fielding technologies that allowed their radio systems to be remoted into the “assault cp circle,” or into a building on an objective.
Based on initial early deployments into Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom, the Rangers realized they needed an improved communications platform for long-term operations. The Land Rover communications vehicle lacked a robust communications capability and had a tendency to get stuck when off-road.
In the early 2000s, Rangers working with BAE Systems developed a custom High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV) communications variant that had greater power capacity, additional radio nets and increased reliability then the Land Rover. The Rangers added secure SINCGARS radios, and multi-band TacSat radios were integrated in communications racks in the cargo area behind the driver and passenger seats. This vehicle also had High Packet Waveform (HPW) capability which enabled them to send data files, imagery and text messages throughout the AOR. The HMMWV, though not as “tactical” for raids, did allow the Rangers to carry more equipment and supplies into combat.
By 2003, Rangers began working on a smaller, more “helicopter tactical” communications capability. Lessons learned in Afghanistan in regards to the weight restrictions of the MH-47 in the higher elevations pushed the Rangers to look for a smaller and lighter communications vehicle. Based on the John Deere Mule, had scaled-down quantities of SINCGARS Radios, Multi-Band radios with low data capability. The premise behind the Guppy was for a simple helicopter drive-off communications platform.
In 2009, after exhaustive testing, the United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) Selected the Kawasaki Teryx as their new light-weight, rugged and agile vehicle platform and awarded a $28.3m contract for over 1,623 Teryx® vehicles for fielding across USSOCOM forces.
USSOCOM had recently retired the MH-53 fleet and the replacement MV-22 Tilt-Rotor helicopters were coming online across the Air Force Special Operations Command. This aircraft platform has a smaller cargo area and steep ramp which precludes the use of Ranger HMMVWs.
In 2011, the Ranger Regiment’s RS8 Force Modernization C4I NCOIC, was tasked to develop an in-house plan to modernize the Regiment’s Teryx vehicles. The Teryx, known as the LT-ATV, was originally intended for medical casualty evacuation, with each cargo bed area configured with stretcher stanchions. The RS8 Force Modernization NCOIC had to work “around” the stretcher stanchions without impacting the Commander’s ability to evacuate casualties, while at the same time installing a robust Command, Control, Communications ISR capability.
We (4K Solutions, LLC), had an existing contract for tactical communications power solutions already in-place that was to be placed in the LT-ATV. As the LT-ATV morphed in scope and capabilities, we met with the customer and Ferno Military Systems, located in Alpharetta, GA. Ferno Military Systems has had a long relationship with USSOCOM forces, DOD, and other US government agencies requiring rapid transitions from “concept” to “reality,” involving, design, prototyping, testing, and production. Ferno Military Systems was contracted to design the mounting solution using components from their Standard Series (IMS) Integrated Mounting System. The key to the design solution is that it allows the Rangers to rapidly install and deploy, or remove and relocate the antenna systems and other communications equipment on the vehicle platform. Ferno Military Systems designed and manufactured the front bumper mounting tray for the Very Small Aperture Terminal (VSAT), removable telescoping poles for X-wing antennas, removable LOS antenna mounts, monitor mounts, and a custom mounting plate located on the roof of the LT-ATV.
The LT-ATV required a robust dc battery power solution to run the VSAT terminal, baseband equipment and single-channel TacSat radios. Working with the various team members, we chose deep cell marine batteries that Ferno mounted in the cargo bed using custom battery mounting plates. Based on success in the US Army we selected a robust power supply solution. Ferno Military Systems fabricated and installed a quick change floor mount located between the driver and the passenger locations. The team at Ferno Military Systems had to react quickly and creatively in order to get all the pieces of the puzzle to fit in a short period of time.
While all of this was happening in Georgia, the DC power distribution system was being rapidly designed, tested and shipped down to Georgia. The robust power distribution system, when combined with the robust power supply system handles the high amperage requirements of the VSAT terminal and all the onboard communications systems. The Rangers are seeing 3-5 hours of battery run time before they must recharge the batteries. The small alternator of the Teryx prevented them from utilizing it to recharge the large marine deep cell batteries.
Additional capabilities were added to support ISR Full Motion Video feeds. A weatherproofed 21” LCD was custom mounted on the rear of the LT-ATV to allow key staff to view live ISR feeds being fed over the Rover 6 ISR receiver.
A custom front mount tray capable of supporting a fully deployed VSAT terminal was designed and fielded across all of the vehicles.
The MV-22 Osprey’s small cargo area and steep ramp prevented the LT-ATV from maintaining its organic roof. Ferno designed a quick release solution to allow the LT-ATV to be quickly removed and installed with break-down pins. The Rangers are able to leverage the added “real-estate” of the roof using custom mounting plates for LOS and TacSat antennas.
The Ranger Regiment continues to adapt their fighting methodologies, tactics and techniques to face challenges around the globe. The Regimental Communications leadership’s adaptive approach allows them to be flexible to emerging requirements and is leaning forward in developing their next generation tactical mobile communications capabilities. Our two companies have been privileged to work on this project and look forward to supporting our customers in the future.
Special Operations “ASSAULT COMMUNICATIONS”
By David E. Theriault, CW2 (ret), (3d Ranger Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment OIF/OEF veteran), President 4K Solutions, LLC
About the author
David E. Theriault, Chief Warrant Officer 2 U.S. Army Retired, President and Founder of 4K Solutions, LLC, is the former Automated Information Systems Officer, 3d Ranger BN who has deployed on 6 Ranger combat rotations in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom. He served in Special Operations units for almost 19 years.
About 4K Solutions, LLC
4K Solutions, LLC (www.4ksolutions.com), headquartered in Midland, Georgia brings over 20 years of Special Operations Communications leadership experience delivering direct critical communications support and consul on some of the most demanding “no-fail combat missions in the world. 4K Solutions specializes in providing Solutions Architecting, Value-Added Reseller, Business Development, IT Training and Professional Services, delivering key solutions, technologies and consulting that help you get your job done. Strength areas include Information Assurance and Tactical/Crisis Communications. Headquartered in Midland, Georgia, 4K is a certified Service Disabled Veteran Owned Small Business (SDVOSB), and combat veteran of OEF and OIF.
About Ferno Military Systems
Ferno Military Systems, Inc (www.fernomilitarysystems.com), headquartered in Alpharetta, GA Ferno is recognized as the global leader in the manufacturing and distribution of emergency patient-handling equipment, custom military and special operations and mortuary products and exports to more than 75 countries. For more information about Ferno please visit www.fernomilitarysystems.com.