Overview

Our specially-trained engineers and technicians have designed, transported and set up broadcast equipment in some of the world’s most extreme environments – including Iraq.

We were asked to install radio broadcast equipment there in 2003 – the early stages of the operations that toppled Saddam Hussein – to give people deployed there a morale-boosting connection to media from back home. The armed forces were operating in a hostile environment – they needed a source of entertainment to given them a break from their jobs. As well as the typical obstacles of language, cultural differences and security, the team also had to deal with major problems caused by extreme heat.

The challenge

Setting up radio broadcasting equipment that could withstand the extreme desert conditions of Iraq has been one of the biggest challenges faced by our engineers.

Since we need to go where our armed forces are deployed, no matter how daunting the circumstances, we need to be innovative to overcome never-before-seen obstacles. After all, we are not simply providing the means to access entertainment, we are giving armed forces a way to support their mental health and wellbeing through a connection to the outside world.

The solution

Not long after arriving in Iraq with the kit, the team faced challenge after challenge.

The intense desert conditions were going to impact the installation project; metal equipment – satellite dishes, masts, cables and cabins – became impossible to work with in the seething heat. Skin would blister at the slightest touch to metal, while some equipment melted. It rapidly became clear that the conditions were rendering the team’s work impossible. Our engineers had to find a solution to operate transmissions systems in 45̊ Celsius and give people their radio connection. As the problems were more serious than anticipated, the team of experts found themselves on a new learning curve. Plus, they had an eager audience waiting to hear radio programmes from back home. The pressure was building, yet the situation demanded strategic thinking and experimentation.

To find a way forward, the team had to return home to their labs. After investigating options, they produced glass fibre reinforced transmitter cabins with externally mounted air conditioners, that cooled equipment while also keeping the sand and dust out, thereby protecting it from Iraq’s high temperatures and extreme environment. Designed to be portable, the cabins were easy to transport to the Forward Operating Bases in Iraq. We also put cabins inside shipping containers to protect them from direct sunlight. Acting as huge shades, they also gave the air conditioners a chance to cool the equipment.

The outcome

Our custom installation worked well. It allowed us to provide those deployed to the Forward Operating Bases with that all-important link with home through BFBS Radio, providing a much-needed source of entertainment and information.

Our new system was so effective at cooling the equipment, that some people started to use the cabins to store soft drinks and chocolate too. The engineers also found ways of protecting the technology from the abrasive desert sand – often blasted into the camp by fierce sandstorms – which can completely ruin the equipment.