The very origins of Lincad as a company are inextricably linked to the Clansman radio that was in use with the British armed forces for more than 30 years, from 1976 to 2010.
It was in 1986 when Brian Soden, now Lincad’s Chairman, founded the company. Having previously worked as a Divisional Director for Saft, a major international battery manufacturer, he believed he could offer the UK Ministry of Defence both a high quality battery service and better value for money. His belief was justified when his new company was awarded a contract to service the nickel-cadmium batteries that powered the Clansman. Having successfully demonstrated its capabilities in this way, Lincad was then awarded the production contract for the battery in 1995, establishing the company as a manufacturing business for the first time.
The Clansman was an integrated radio system, sometimes called a Combat Net Radio (CNR), developed by the Signals Research and Development Establishment (SRDE) in response to a General Staff Requirement first laid down by the MOD in 1965. As a replacement for the ageing Larkspur system, the Clansman was not only much lighter than its predecessor, it also proved to be more flexible and more reliable. Originally manufactured by Racal BCC, Mullard Equipment Ltd (MEL) and Plessey, the Clansman introduced the army to several new technological features, including SSB (single-sideband) operation and NBFM (narrow-band frequency modulation).
The name ‘Clansman’ actually referred to a family of nine main radio units, operating in the high frequency (HF), very high frequency (VHF) and ultra high frequency (UHF) bands and individual models were designated UK/PRC or UK/VRC for portable radio communications and vehicle radio communications respectively. The main advantage was that they were all frequency synthesised, using switched channels as opposed to a variable tuning scale which provided frequency stability and removed the need for frequent tweaking to maintain a signal.
In active use during the Falklands War of 1982 and the First Gulf War in 1991, the Clansman was progressively phased out from the mid-2000s onwards, being replaced by the new digital Bowman communication system. Whilst much of the equipment is still available to collectors on the surplus market, technical details of some of the parts remain classified to this day.
THE CLANSMAN BATTERY
“The MOD originally planned to deploy the Clansman with primary non-rechargeable batteries but just as it was coming into service in the early 1970s, while I was still working for Saft, we persuaded them to go for a secondary rechargeable battery,” remembers Brian Soden. “The Ministry of Defence gave both Saft and Chloride a contract to produce 1,000 rechargeable batteries which were trialled and, lo and behold, the rechargeable batteries that we supplied worked. The design of the battery went on from there.”
Brian Soden had already decided in his own mind to establish Lincad when he approached the MOD with a proposal to provide an inspection and maintenance service. Initially offered 1,000 batteries to check, he set up a testing facility in Sandhurst and, before long, the newly formed Lincad was receiving Clansman batteries in the tens of thousands which, having been inspected, were either made good for service use or scrapped.
A variety of rechargeable nickel-cadmium batteries were used in the early days of the Clansman, including a small 12V 0.5Ah , a 14.4V 1.8Ah as well as a 24V 3.3Ah battery which was later upgraded to 4Ah.
To support this 4Ah version, an alternating current charging unit (ACCU) was provided for use in barracks, where up to sixteen batteries could be charged simultaneously or singly, whilst a direct current charging unit (DCCU) was used to recharge the battery when it was mounted in a vehicle. Both chargers worked in a similar way, providing an appropriate charging current while sensing the battery temperature to detect when charging was complete. Later, an intelligent battery management system (IBMS) was provided which could automatically condition one or more batteries, ensuring that only a complete charge cycle was ever applied.
TIME MOVES ON
By this stage, the days of the Clansman being used on active service were numbered. Time was moving on for the army and for Lincad.
“Over the course of our 30 years, we have been instrumental in advancing battery technology and design, working closely with global cell manufacturers to push the limits of what can be achieved with the latest cell chemistries,” says Brian Soden. “The commercialisation of lithium-ion batteries in 1991 saw a step change in battery performance and by the year 2000, we were developing our first lithium-ion power system (LIPS) battery, the LIPS 1, and the associated Caravel charger.”
Now firmly established as a major supplier to the MOD, Lincad designs and manufactures batteries, chargers and power management systems for applications ranging from man-portable equipment to artillery systems, from underwater vehicles to land mobile equipment. The next generation of the LIPS battery, offering the very latest in battery technology and design is on the horizon. However, it all began with the servicing of the nickel cadmium batteries for the Clansman radio.