90 Signals Unit

Who is at the Unit

Force HQ

Contribute to the achievement of the 90 SU Strategic Objectives by:

Ensuring the delivery of a Coherent, Integrated and Appropriately Structured Unit

Preparing the Unit for Expeditionary Operations

Doing Right by Our People
 through:

  • Developing effective internal Communication Mechanisms.
  • Encouraging individual development and ensure opportunities exists to allow individuals to develop themselves.
  • Providing a safe and secure working and living environment, free from harassment and intimidation.
  • Providing a working environment that challenges and satisfies the individual.

Tactical Communications Wing

Tactical Communications Wing (TCW) is the expeditionary arm of 90 SU, generating teams of professionals in Information and Communications Technology (ICT) at the required levels of Readiness to deploy. TCW has been involved in all the RAF's major military operations since 1969 and currently has teams of personnel deployed across Afghanistan. The TCW crest, a Rock Dove, the ancient ancestor of the carrier pigeon, and the lightning bolt, a symbol synonymous with communications in the RAF, is underpinned by the motto, "Ubique Loquimur" or "We Speak Everywhere."

TCW has been in existence for nearly 40 years and originates from the lessons identified in the ill-fated 1956 Suez Crisis. Many lessons were learnt as a direct result of the intervention, one of which became the need to provide deployable support to expeditionary air operations. As a consequence, 38 Group Support Unit was formed in 1962, based at RAF Odiham. However, it soon became apparent that communications were a significant support task and in 1965, No. 50 Tactical Signals Unit was formed, subsuming the communications support provided from within 38 Group Support Unit.

The Wing, as it was affectionately known, and its commitments continued to grow, and in 1967 it was renamed the Tactical Signals Wing. It gained its present name in 1969 following a move to RAF Benson and then in 1976 moved to RAF Brize Norton. TCW then made a further move in 2008 to its present home at RAF Leeming.

No. 2 Field Communications Squadron

No. 2 (FC) Squadron, one of three Field Communications Squadrons within TCW, provides the Royal Air Force and the Joint community with the communications, Navaids and information systems it needs to operate in any deployed location. The Squadron provides support to all of Tactical Communications Wing’s customers including the Joint Force Logistics Command, No 1 Air Control Centre, the Support Helicopter fleet, the Joint Force Air Component HQ and Special Forces. The degree of support ranges from 1-2 personnel filling a rapid response role, through to a full Deployed Operating Base contingent of 47 personnel.

No. 2 (FC) Squadron’s mission is to provide Force Elements at Readiness to allow 90 Signals Unit to meet its Mission.

No. 3 Field Communications Squadron

No. 3 (FC) Squadron, one of three Field Communications Squadrons within TCW, provides the Royal Air Force and the Joint community with the communications, Navaids and information systems it needs to operate in any deployed location. The Squadron provides support to all of Tactical Communications Wing’s customers including the Joint Force Logistics Command, No 1 Air Control Centre, the Support Helicopter fleet, the Joint Force Air Component HQ and Special Forces. The degree of support ranges from 1-2 personnel filling a rapid response role, through to a full Deployed Operating Base contingent of 47 personnel.

No. 3 (FC) Squadron’s mission is to provide Force Elements at Readiness to allow 90 Signals Unit to meet its Mission.

No. 4 Field Communications Squadron

No. 4 (FC) Squadron, one of three Field Communications Squadrons within TCW, provides the Royal Air Force and the Joint community with the communications, Navaids and information systems it needs to operate in any deployed location. The Squadron provides support to all of Tactical Communications Wing’s customers including the Joint Force Logistics Command, No 1 Air Control Centre, the Support Helicopter fleet, the Joint Force Air Component HQ and Special Forces. The degree of support ranges from 1-2 personnel filling a rapid response role, through to a full Deployed Operating Base contingent of 47 personnel.

No. 4 (FC) Squadron’s mission is to provide Force Elements at Readiness to allow 90 Signals Unit to meet its Mission.

Operational Information Services Wing

Previously named Force Generation Wing; FGW was formed as one of two wings under 90 SU on its formation on 01 April 2006. In 2015, Air Officer Commanding 38 Group approved the adoption by FGW, 90 SU of a close-copy badge of the former No. 60 (Signals) Group with suitable re-titling of the Wing to ‘Operational Information Services Wing’ (OpISW).

OpISW provides the organic Close Support required to train, prepare, task, deploy and sustain 90 SU Force Elements At Readiness (FE@R). It provides depth support to the deployed mission and – although its personnel are not declared as FE@R – it provides a surge capability for specialist or short-but-high-intensity tasks. OpISW supports UK Operations and the activities of UK C4I (Command, Control, Communications, Computers and Intelligence) elements across the RAF through a range of functions.

OpISW houses the majority of the RAF’s Aerial Erectors, a large proportion of whom are held forward in Area Teams at RAF Henlow, Lossiemouth and Wittering, and delivers depth support to the airfield navigation aids at MOBs and the PJOBS. It contains small teams focussed on addressing equipment interoperability issues, improving capability, and developing bespoke applications. OpISW's coordinating function and innovative outlook make it a Force Multiplier which makes a decisive contribution to AIR’s operations worldwide. 

 

No. 5 Information Services Squadron

No. 5 (IS) Squadron is responsible for building, configuring and supporting 90 SU’s deployable Information Systems. It consists of the Deployed Information Services Flight, Air Cyber and Information Services Operations Centre, and Information Assurance Flight. The Squadron maintains, configures and supports Information Systems at SUKEO, Mission/NATO SECRET and OFFICIAL and carries out End to End Service Management in support of Air operations. The Squadron is also the home for Air’s Expeditionary Cyber Protection Team (Advisor) capability; a team of Defensive Cyber specialists who can deploy to provide Cyber Security advice to the deployed commander.

No. 1 Engineering Support Squadron

No. 1 (ES) Squadron consists of Engineering Support Flight, Navigational Aids Flight, Aerial Engineering Flight and Above Secret Information Systems Flight. No. 1 (ES) Squadron is responsible for, the engineering support to deployable network equipment used across 90 SU, the maintenance of Defence’s Navigational Aids both fixed and deployable, providing Defence Working at Height and cable infrastructure specialists, and providing engineering support to a number of Defence’s Above Secret Systems. No.1 (ES) Squadron also provides Force Elements at Readiness to meet Operational and Exercise tasking.

Capability and Innovation (C&I) Squadron

Capability and Innovation (C&I) Squadron consists of Operational Conversion Unit (OCU), Rapid Application and Integration Development (RAID) Unit, Information Exploitation Team (IX Team), and the Quality and Continuous Improvement Team (QCIT). The Squadron is commanded by a Squadron Leader Engineer and provides specialist technical and IX expertise support to the rest of the Unit on any fielded equipment, Air Information Services (IS) application or IX issues and will ensure that specialist system and pre-deployment training is available to all members of 90 SU. 

Operations Squadron

Operations Squadron is responsible for planning, tasking and sustaining all 90 Signals Unit operations and exercises. Commanded by a Squadron Leader Engineer Officer it comprises of Operations Flight, Comms1 and Battle Space Spectrum Management, with tasking authority over RAF Leeming’s 90 Signals Unit Logistics Support Flight. Operations Squadron is the principal POC for the Unit’s operational output and the anchor point for all 90 Signals Unit deployments worldwide. It is the ‘front door’ into and out of the Unit, responsible for liaison with higher commands and external agencies.

591 Signals Unit

591 SU is Air’s Defensive Cyber Air Combat Service Support Unit.  It supports the cyber resilience of UK air power, by delivering intelligence-led defensive cyber operations capability to identify and mitigate Air’s cyber vulnerabilities.

History

In 1940, No 26 (Signals) Group was formed to handle worldwide communications to support the increasing reliance on electronic communications in warfare. The Group was revolutionary for its time, and its role can be compared to today’s Tactical Communications Wing (which is now part of No 90 Signals Unit), albeit No 26 (Signals) Group had less emphasis on deployed operations. Later that year, No 60 Group was created, bringing Radar stations under Royal Air Force control and administration, a task now fulfilled in the deployed environment by No 1 (Expeditionary Radar and Airfield) Squadron, which is one of the 5 squadrons that form the Tactical Communications Wing. No 60 Group became responsible for "Gee"1 and "Oboe"2, the principle wartime navigation and bombing aids. On 7 October 1940, No 80 Wing became the first Royal Air Force electronic warfare unit and was tasked with spoiling the enemy bombing aids. No 100 Group was established soon afterwards, with the duty of deceiving German radio and radar defence services.

1946 saw the formation of 90 (Signals) Group, bringing together all the above functions under one central control. Twelve years later, on 3 November 1958, 90 (Signals) Group was raised to Command status under the command of Air Vice Marshal Dalton-Morris. Signals Command became responsible for Radio Engineering, Electronic Warfare, Telecommunications, Radar Defence Services and the calibration, operation and maintenance of Navigational Aids. Signals Command had some 38 stations and 8000 personnel, which is in stark contrast to today’s No 90 Signals Unit, which covers the majority of the task associated Signals Command, albeit in the expeditionary environment with just over 900 personnel.

Signals Command proved to be a relatively short-lived Command and was disbanded on 31 December 1968 after just 10-years and 5 Commanders in Chief. No 90 (Signals) Group was resurrected on 1 January 1969 to assume the role of the disbanded Command. It was placed under the direct control of Strike Command, as No 90 Signals Unit is today, indicating the significance of communications as an operational enabler. However, No 90 (Signals) Group was passed to Maintenance Command on 1 May 1972 and was finally disbanded on 31 August 1973 when Support Command absorbed its functions.

On 1 April 2006 No 90 Signals Unit was formed under the command of a Group Captain. The Unit was created to bring together in one organisation 3 separate communications Air Combat Service Support Units in a similar way to the formation of 90 (Signals) Group in 1946.

1. “GEE” was a RAF navigation system that evolved during World War II. The system subsequently remained in service until 1970. GEE was the first serious attempt to provide navigators with a rapid means of determination of position, and seldom has any one invention so faithfully and quickly satisfied the requirements for which it was developed.

2. The "Oboe" blind-bombing system was used by Bomber Command's Pathfinder Force to achieve unparalleled bombing accuracies. It was a ground-controlled radar system, in which one station indicated the track to be followed and another controlled the bomb release point.

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