Newsletters - Volume 55
Communicator Research Troop Looks "Back to the Future" with New Training Courses
Written by MCpl Jason C. Doucette
"Everything comes to this: to be able to recognize the changed situation and order the foreseeable course and prepare for it energetically" - Field Marshall Helmuth Graf von Moltke, Ausgewaehlte Werke, I, 1925.
It is well known that many things work in a cyclical nature. Such is the case at Canadian Forces School of Electronics (CFSCE) 2 Squadron Foxtrot Troop (2 Sqn F-Tp) with the introduction of two new Communicator Research (Comm Rsch) courses in 2011 - the Advanced Signals Analysis (ASA) and Morse Code Training.
Up until the middle of the last decade, signals analysis played an integral role in Comm Rsch operations. Analysts specifically trained to collect, analyse, and identify emissions in the radio frequency (RF) spectrum were employed wherever Comm Rsch positions were required. The majority located with the Signals Development (SigDev) Department at CFS Leitrim. The noted specialty of a Comm Rsch SigDev analyst was to utilize specialized collection and analysis techniques to identify signals in the RF spectrum that would otherwise have gone undetected. Over the years, SigDev analysts posted in four primary locations (CFS Leitrim, CFS Gander, CFS Alert and CFS Masset) have successfully identified new signals of interest, reinforcing the importance of the Canadian SIGINT contribution in the 5-EYES community.
Comm Rsch SigDev analysts received their training at CFSCE 2 Sqn F-Tp through a four month Signals Analysis course. This course provided an excellent foundation of signal analysis theory and techniques, but for the most part was limited to the study of technologies found in the high frequency (HF) band. Over time, the rapid technological advancement coupled with the increasing complexity of standard international communications, necessitated an update to the SigDev academic curriculum. The new Advanced Signals Analysis training plan was the result and put into effect in January 2011. The inaugural Comm Rsch ASA course serial 0001 - an 86 training day specialty course providing students with increased academic and practical study in communication technologies found across an RF range more than purely HF. Such technologies include microwave, satellite, advanced modem and voice communications.
The recent increase in deployed operations since the events of September 2001 has demanded a more tactical and agile approach to SIGINT collection and analysis. This is a fundamental change, especially in contrast to the earlier doctrine of a more strategic and fixed collection approach. These developments identified to the Comm Rsch community the need for a re-freshed Advanced Signals Analyst course in order to ensure that the seasoned operators were as knowledgeable on the entire target set as practicable and were updated on the analysis processes and IT suites in their charge.
As a result, the new ASA teaching plan includes a practical phase where students are expected to construct, configure, and maintain a signal collection and analysis suite similar to that encountered on deployed operations - be it land, sea, or air.
In May 2011, the Comm Rsch trade will welcome the newly graduated Advanced Signals Analysts back into the fold. With their expanded signal collection and analysis knowledge base, Advanced Signals Analysts look forward to repeating the analytical performance and efficiency established by the SigDev Departments of the past. With pride and with the expectation of the trade group and the CF on their shoulders, they will search in order to identify signals of interest.
As the ASA course focus is directed towards the adaptation of signal analysis techniques found in newer technologies, the role of Morse code as an emerging player in the communications world is again capturing the imagination of the Comm Rsch trade. Once considered moribund in the communication world, Morse code appears to be staging its comeback. An example of this lies in Toshiba's 2008 development of a handheld, thumb-operated communications device named "Clique", which uses only three keys to produce Morse code for sending text messages - a method rapidly increasing in popularity in Asia.
With evidence of such devices, it is not a surprise that the age-old technology has found its way back onto the Comm Rsch radar. Trade advisors and senior personnel have recognized Morse Code's re-emergence and quickly approved the re-establishment and maintenance of its training. The result is an updated Morse Code training program that is now available to Comm Rsch personnel awaiting Phase II training. As with the new ASA course, the initial iteration of this full-time five and a half month Morse Course (Serial 0001) commenced in January of this year.
Candidates on the Morse Code course experience a hybrid form of training, beginning with older Morse character memorization techniques such as flashcards to establish strict character recognition. From there students apply their new recognition skills against modern Morse training software, progressing on a word per minute scale until each student has attained a minimum copying speed of 22 words per minute. With the prospect of two course serials per year each with a load of 24 students, the Comm Rsch trade is ensuring that they will have the personnel to tackle any Morse code tasking in the future.
A secondary goal of this new training course would be to set the example within the SIGINT community in regards to the rapid adaptation and exploitation of new technology employing older communication methods. As all members of the C&E Branch, the importance of staying on "the cutting edge" of today's technology is well understood by the Comm Rsch trade. The recent redevelopment of ASA and Morse training serves to illustrate that in order to prepare for the future, you must sometimes not be afraid to visit the past.
Master Seaman Cindy Draper monitors Pte Heffernan's progress during the inaugural session of the new Communicator Research Morse code training course - one of two new courses offered at CFSCE's 2 Squadron Foxtrot Troop.