The Personal Role Radio: A New Tactical Short-Range Radio



by Eugene Nielson
Tactical Response Winter 2003


The Personal Role Radio (PRR) is a new tactical short-range radio. Manufactured in the U.K. by Davies Communications and distributed by Television Equipment Associates, the PRR is already in use by the military of both the U.S. and the U.K. The PRR has been selected by the British Army as part of the BOWMAN Radio Project. It is seeing action in Afghanistan and Iraq with both U.S. and U.K. forces. TEA is making the PRR available to law enforcement in the U.S. As of this writing, the PRR is undergoing FCC approval for civilian use, which should be completed by early 2004.

Built to mil specs, the PRR is a short-range tactical radio that operates independently of any infrastructures. Utilizing advanced wireless local area network (LAN) technology and incorporating QPSK (direct sequencing spread spectrum-voice coding CVSD) modulation, the PRR operates on the unrestricted 2.4 gigahertz (GHz) with 50 milliwatt (mW) transmit power, ensuring private communications with a low probability of detection and interception.

The PRR has a 256-channel capability. Sixteen channels are directly available to the user, with an additional 16 directly under the press to talk (PTT) switch. The operational range in rural terrain is more than 500 meters. The PRR will transmit through up to three floors in urban terrain.

Measuring only 3.5 x 5.5 inches, the PRR is quite compact. The PRR operates on two standard AA batteries. A set of batteries typically provides 24- hour use (1:7:16 Tx/Rx/S''By radio). The PRR fits inside a heavy-duty, polyurethane-coated, textured nylon pouch. The pouch can be secured to TLBV or LBE and provides protection to the PRR.

The PRR is supplied with a single PTT switch assembly that operates the PRR only. A dual PTT switch assembly is available as an optional accessory. The dual PTT has two PTT buttons plus a lead to a secondary radio (military or civilian-type), allowing the operator to communicate with other groups. This allows increased communication without interference to longerrange command nets. So equipped, a team leader can operate on the command net by simply pressing the second PTT button.

A U.K.-qualified COMSEC circuit housed in the dual PTT makes it impossible to accidentally transmit on both radios at the same time. Whichever radio''s PTT switch is selected first gets transmit priority. The dual PTT aspect of the PRR can also be integrated into several other systems, including PRR interfaces, a PRR vehicle intercom system and PRR RHIB intercom system.

The PRR is equipped with a lightweight boom microphone headset as standard equipment. Numerous other alternate headset options are available from TEA for use with the PRR, such as covert options that allow concealment of the headset, for example. The lightweight headset is constructed from glass-filled nylon and features a noise-canceling microphone. The headset is secured on the operator''s head by means of a lightweight, washable, ventilated nylon/cotton, harness (headband). The headset is Velcro® adjustable and can be worn comfortably under most military / ballistic helmets. The ear shell is ventilated so as not to obstruct hearing. The design of the ear shell allows hearing protection to be worn over it to protect the operator''s hearing from noise or concussion.

A common ancillaries socket is provided on both types of PTT switch assemblies (single and dual) to plug in the headset. When both the PRR and secondary radio receive messages at the same time, the operator will hear both messages simultaneously.

The PRR and ancillary equipment are NBC compatible. An adapter to interface the boom mike of a lightweight headset with a respirator / gas mask is available. The NBC microphone adapter incorporates a sound tube that clips to certain respirators / gas masks in a suitable location such as the speech port or exhalation diaphragm. The other end of the adapter slides over the microphone.

A unique, wireless PTT switch is also supplied with the PRR. About the size of a small car door opener, the wireless PTT switch can be attached to the operator''s personal weapon or other equipment that''s in use, utilizing the strap that''s provided.

The wireless PTT switch allows remotely operating the PRR (by means of a short range radio). The operator doesn''t have to take his hands away from his weapon or his eyes off of his target. The wireless PTT switch operates at 433 MHz with 128 bit unique coding. It has a range of approximately two meters. Each wireless PTT has a unique identity. Once programmed, the PRR can only be operated by its "own" wireless PTT switch. Should the wireless PTT switch be lost or replaced, the operator can easily reprogram his PRR to accept a replacement in seconds.

The features that make the PRR invaluable to military small unit operations also make it an invaluable comm tool for law enforcement tactical teams. The PRR is NTOA member tested and approved.

Eugene Nielsen provides investigative and tactical consulting services and is a former officer. He may be reached at: esnielsen@usa.net.

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