The FONET digital platform for integration of vehicle communication systems and sensors is one of the greatest commercial successes of the WB Group. The system has been developed for over twenty years, and is widely used in most modern armoured fighting vehicles as well as other vehicles of the Polish Armed Forces. There are also many export orders. A great success was the sale of the license rights for the production to the US company Harris – currently L3Harris. FONET, under the name RF7800I Tactical Intercom System, provides the equipment in thousands of vehicles and command systems around the world. It is used in a total exceeding 10,000 systems both by the US Armed Forces and their allies to which it was delivered under the FMS Programme.
User controls in one of the possible configurations of the FONET System / Image: WB Group
The FONET System enables the integration of various communication systems such as operator desktops that act as internal wired voice communication functions in a vehicle, wireless communications, wired communications, on-board computers, audio communication via the Internet in VoIP technology, sensors and effectors installed in a given vehicle
– “The FONET System continues to meet the requirements of users” emphasises Krzysztof Skrzypiński, Development Manager of WB Electronics S.A. “However, we perceive needs that have become the reason to elaborate a further development of this proven system.”
Krzysztof Skrzypiński notes that the demand grows for computing power related to the processing of an increasing amount of data that reaches vehicle crews. Requirements have appeared in relation to access systems with classified information, forcing work on multi-clause systems. Demands for registration of activities are growing as well. Military vehicles are now also integrated with an increasing number of unmanned systems. In addition, there is also a need to ensure the production capacity of the system for another decade. These factors meant that the WB Group has introduced another development of the FONET System
Elements of the FONET system with central unit mounted in the interior of a vehicle / Image: WB Group
In Order To Process More Data
In comparison with its predecessor, the improved FONET System has much greater data processing capacity. This is possible thanks to a central unit with a four-core processor with Advanced RISC Machine (ARM) architecture. Due to its implementation, the system provides its users with the opportunity to introduce newer and more complex combinations of battle management, command or fire control systems. It also allows for the use of complicated and advanced communication systems without the need for additional external devices.
Possible configuration of the improved FONET System / Image: WB Group
Increased computing power can be used to implement various functions that enhance the system’s capabilities. It is possible to increase the number of radio channels with Mixed-Excitation Linear Prediction (MELPe) 2400 encoding for all wireless stations installed in the vehicle. The number of voice streams in VoIP technology encoded by the G.792 codec was also increased. Currently, there are 32 of them.
A central unit of the improved FONET System containing a four-core processor with ARM architecture / Image: WB America
Greater computing power also makes possible introducing new functionalities to the system such as voice control of the system functions, or the implementation of a speech to text function. It also enables processing video streams from both unmanned systems and cameras mounted on the vehicle.
The user’s desktop has a modular structure, which facilitates the introduction of various functionalities. It is equipped with a graphical display with a resolution of 320 × 240 pixels that makes possible display of video images or conducting conversations in the form of videoconferencing.
The FONET System operator’s desktop with a 320 × 240 pixel display, which enables display of video images or conducting talks in the form of videoconferencing / Image: Jakub Link-Lenczowski
The Multi-Clause System
The high degree of security has been preserved in the new system. Let us recall that the FONET System has been authorised to work within the NATO secret clause systems fitted in the command vehicles of the Multi-National Division (MND). Developing the vehicle communication platform has maintained quick access to communications when launching the system. It is already available and ready to use in a few seconds after turning the power on.
The FONET System user’s desktop with two displays enabling connectivity to multi-clause communications / Image: WB Group
The improved FONET System also enables use of systems requiring a high degree of security like Virtual Private Network, VLAN with encryption or SYSLOG with encryption. It has a built-in firewall for wireless networks.
The enhanced version of the FONET System is equipped with a built-in encryption mechanism. There is the possibility of using encryption mechanisms supplied by the customer to whom the digital communication platform would be delivered.
A display configuration of the FONET System demonstrated by the WB Group / Image: WB Group
This new enhanced version has secure and encrypted operation management interfaces. A new feature is the ability to work in various openness clauses at the same time. As a result, operators entrusted with varying degrees of access to classified information or lack of such the approval can use the system.
The improved FONET is also equipped with an emergency data clearing function – the so-called Self Destruction Mode.
“Of course, the new variant of our system is fully compatible with its previous version. Therefore, it does not require replacing all devices in a vehicle” emphasizes Piotr Wojciechowski, President of the WB Group.
A Readily Available Offering
The improved FONET System is not just a prototype, but the solution is ready for serial production. It had its debut at the AUSA 2021 Show. It has already been offered on foreign markets in a tender for the equipment of motorised brigade vehicles. On the American market, it is being marketed by WB America under the name FONET Mk2.
Elements of the improved FONET System during laboratory tests / Image: WB Group
The WB Group offers this solution to European partners as a system of processing information of classified information and in multi-component systems, as well as for advanced telecommunication systems intended for vehicles or command posts of any level.
The improved FONET was presented for trials of the telecommunication system model for Polish command vehicles. As part of this work, together with other products of the WB Group, it underwent a number of trials under the supervision of the Ministry of National Defence departments responsible for the Command Vehicle Programme as well as the cyber security protocols.
As the President of Piotr Wojciechowski declares, the improved FONET System will be offered as a communications system for Polish armoured command vehicles on the KTO 8 × 8 chassis