Army to use Harris Falcon II HF and VHF tactical radios in telemedicine

FORT DETRICK, Md. — U.S. Army leaders are beginning to apply telemedicine techniques to the battlefield with a standard tactical radio system. Initially they will use only voice units mounted in High Mobility Multi-purpose Wheeled Vehicles, but will later use digital voice and data in individual soldier manpacks.

By John Rhea

FORT DETRICK, Md. — U.S. Army leaders are beginning to apply telemedicine techniques to the battlefield with a standard tactical radio system. Initially they will use only voice units mounted in High Mobility Multi-purpose Wheeled Vehicles, but will later use digital voice and data in individual soldier manpacks.

Managing the program is the Medical Communications for Combat Casualty Care (MC4) product management office at Fort Detrick, Md. MC4 manager Lt. Col. J. B. Crowther says he expects the radios to be part of an all-digital backbone to be implemented over the next year and a half.

As part of the transition, the Program Executive Office, Standard Army Management Information Systems awarded a $5 million contract to the Harris Corp. RF Communications division in Rochester, N.Y., to outfit the first 33 Army combat medical units.

The radios are the firm`s Falcon II high frequency (HF) and very high frequency (VHF) transceivers operating in the 1.6-to-60 MHz range in single sideband FM modes. The Army designates this radio as the AN/PRC-138B.

The company has begun production, says James Hausknecht, vice president for North American Sales at Harris RF. Deliveries will begin next spring. He foresees a product line tailored for vehicles, transit cases carried into the field by medical units, and eventually manpacks — all software compatible.

The soldiers already carry dog tags with personal medical information into the field, Hausknecht adds. The purpose of the telemedicine system is to transmit information to doctors behind battle lines and receive diagnoses in the field.

The tactical radios currently contain 2,400 bits-per-second modems, but the company has more ambitious plans for sending images from the battlefield, which will require further upgrades. Looking beyond the initial Army application, Hausknecht is also exploring adoption of this technique by Special Forces.

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