A historic paper from 1983 which describes the need for communications for command and control of the Army.


The Telecommunication Journal of Australia has hosted many papers from mainstream industry and academia. Occasionally papers are received from unexpected sources, which shine a light into unfamiliar corners of telecommunications. This the case with the historic paper (Skelton, 1983), which describes the need for communications for command and control of the Australian Army.

The paper provides a summary of communications in the Army at the time (1983) and the technical variety that was expected as they advanced towards the year 2000. The paper needs to be viewed from the prospective of the communications that were available at the time, not the significant advances which we take for granted over the last nearly forty years, since the paper was published.

The author, Colonel P. G. Skelton, graduated from the Royal Military College Duntroon in 1960 and served in Vietnam from April to November 1967 (DVA, 2020), where he was responsible for communications support to the HQ AFV [Headquarters, Australian Force Vietnam], including in-country radio relay and High Frequency (HF) radio back to Australia.

The Army has a number of issues to consider when communications are required beyond the unit or local level. Communications need to be secure and they must withstand electronic counter measures; often, relay stations are required for VHF and UHF, given their propagation limitations. Equipment needs to be ruggedized, have excellent energy efficiency to conserve power, and operate properly in direct sunlight and in environments from wet tropical to dry dusty desert heat.

In 1983, microprocessors were appearing in Army equipment for enciphering and terminal applications. Traditional manual message switching was being replaced with automatic exchanges, and the use of satellite communications was being introduced. Traditional HF was still heavily utilised for long-range communications via teleprinters and transportable 1 kW ISB [independent sideband] transmitters at remote headquarters.

At that time, there was a preference for the Army sourcing design and manufacturing from Australian companies. There was also a focus on developing people to perform the signals and communications functions, which remain critical to winning a war.

This paper was one of several in the Journal in 1983 covering defence communications and I can thoroughly recommend a companion paper from Captain Richard Arundel of the Royal Australian Navy, which appeared in the previous edition of the Journal (Arundel, 1983).


Arundel, R. (1983). Command-and-control Communications in the RAN. Telecommunication Journal of Australia, 33(1), 3-7.

DVA [Department of Veterans’ Affairs]. (2020). Vietnam War Service: Veteran Details. 7 July. Retrieved from https://nominal-rolls.dva.gov.au/veteran?id=1273951&c=VIETNAM

Skelton, P. G. (1983). Army Communications Looking Ahead. Telecommunication Journal of Australia, 33(2), 83-89.

Please refer to the PDF download version for the full paper, including the historical paper reprint.