Cobham has been selected by the Home Office to provide the Emergency Services Network (ESN) with air-to-ground (A2G) communication capabilities.

The Aircraft Communications System (ACS) contract, valued at £64 million, covers both the equipment and services required for ESN’s A2G capability, and will provide mission critical push-to-talk voice and high-speed data services over LTE (Long Term Evolution) for all UK police and air ambulance aircraft. Cobham is scheduled to deliver the system during 2021–22.

Cobham’s solution is an evolution of its RT-7000 tactical radio, which is in use across more than 20 public safety aviation units worldwide. The company claims that its use will simplify installation and ease user adoption by using existing form factors and familiar HMI from Cobham’s proven TETRA systems. Cobham will also supply antennas to operate on both the ESN terrestrial band and dedicated Air to Ground network. As part of the ESN ACS project, Cobham is collaborating with QinetiQ, to provide test and assurance capabilities.

The ACS procurement was launched in December 2018 via a formal Official Journal of the European Union (OJEU) contract notice announcing the Home Office Emergency Services Mobile Communications Programme’s (ESMCP) intention to establish a framework agreement that it and ESN user organisations can use to procure the required goods and services for use on the ESN. The framework agreement will comprise of a single supplier with a call-off period of 10 years with the option of a five year extension. Its estimated total value is up to £100,000,000. The contract includes on-going service management but excludes installation.

Steve Whatson, deputy director for ESMCP, said, “The award of the ACS contract marks an extremely important milestone in the rollout of the Emergency Services Network and allows us to look forward towards the deployment of a full 4G LTE Air network, which will be a world first. We look forward to working closely with Cobham to deliver this capability.”

Paul Kahn, sector president of Cobham Communication & Connectivity said, “This win reinforces Cobham’s position as the market leader in critical communications for airborne users. We are proud to offer our continued support to UK emergency services having provided their existing airborne TETRA communications systems since the inception of Airwave. We are excited to be involved in their transition to LTE, enabling new capabilities whilst maintaining the critical voice services upon which our emergency services depend to keep us safe”

Author: Sam Fenwick