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Fur Hat and Tor

Page history last edited by Ian Gillis 1 year, 7 months ago


Marconi Radar carried out two large projects in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s in Sweden as part of the STRIL60 system.


The  first, which was code-named FUR HAT, consisted of two very large underground operations centres, with equipment that, at the time, was at the forefront of technology. The Royal Swedish Air Force was a very different type of customer, particularly because of the high level of technical ability of the people involved and the ability to take decisions quickly and efficiently. It was a collaborative programme from the outset.


The study contract was let in 1957 and implementation started in 1959; the first site was handed over in December 1963 and the second in March 1966. The data handling technology was significantly more modern than the contemporary UK project LINESMAN; the work started at about the same time on LINESMAN and FUR HAT but FUR HAT went into operational service seven years before LINESMAN. FUR HAT was the first operational military digital data handling system, enabling innovations such as tabular data displays, marked radar displays, large-screen colour synthetic displays, digital radar data links etc. to be put into operational use.


The second phase, codenamed TOR, was a matter of update of the system and provision of a transportable facility, with a considerable volume of new software. Marconi  Radar experienced some  difficulties on the software  side, but completed a technically advanced and successful system.


Input from Don Halstead

Fur Hat was complemented by Project Mayflower sometime around 1970(?) integrating met info etc into the complex, involving Myriad computers; John Lancaster led the Systems team, I think.
I did a six-month study as to how various other facilities might be added to the Fur Hat systems, but it all looked too cumbersome and too expensive for what was on offer.
Subsequently TOR-H and -L were, I think, Locus based systems provided by MRSL in the 1980s to provide (?) mobile ops capabilities, possibly in connection with Stril-80 or Stril-90, including, I suspect, integration of Observer Corps and many other inputs. Project DBU260 may have been the RSAF/FMV overall project title, but my memory is now too vague, even though I was involved in various ways. (Editorial Note: FMV is the equivalent of the MOD Procurement Executive.)
TOR had a very substantial software content, managed by Alan Greaves at one stage; overall Project Manager, John Pearce for much of the time. Matty, Rex Manville and others - Mike McKenzie (?) -spent much effort in analysing the niceties of intercept program performance, so no doubt Matty will have well-informed comments.


Input from Alan Matthews

I worked on both the Fur Hat and Tor projects and was in Sweden for quite a long time in 1963/64 and later on TOR where I went to Sweden about 20 times for various meetings.

On Fur Hat I helped commission and de-bug the analogue display system which had been developed from the UK Rotor system mainly under the guidance of Cliff Clarke at Baddow. Chris Bagguly was the Field Services site Manager during this time.

TOR (Thor or Transportable Operations Rooms) was technically under the control of Ron Howick and divided into two parts - TOR L which consisted basically of individual display cabins with basic facilities managed by Alan Batchelor, and TOR H systems managed by myself, which joined together TOR L cabins with another pair of computer shelters which included auto tracking, intercept control, ground to air data links to the then new Viggen fighter, a very complex automatic standby system and other facilities.

Colin McCray also had a Project Management role as did Roger Woodcock with Derek Watkins/Arthur Young making suitable excuses for the software delays.

However the Swedes fortunately kept making changes to the requirements as they sorted out the Viggen design so Ron Howick and Karl-Arne Samuelsson were able to negotiate many cost and time amendments to get us off the hook. The Swedes therefore got a more suitable system a few years later than the original contract time and all parties seemed to be satisfied in the end.

I could bore you all to death for weeks with tales about my times in Sweden !!!


Input from Don Halstead

You might like to look at  www.fht.nu/Dokument/Flygvapnet/flyg_publ_dok_c2_history_070226.pdf  [Editors note - this is in English and is very comprehensive] and in particular pages 56 and 59. p56 (lfc 1): first 2 pictures surely have to be Fur Hat SOC (either -1 or -2) - the centre one is one of the operational cells - hope also to have same pic from another doc. [Editors note - see immediately below] lfc 1 also referred to as AOC in other Swedish docs. The top right is NOT Fur Hat based as far as I know - probably a much later effort (note laptop and TV data display etc) but v.probably in the same 'cavern'. Not clear about p59 = attributed to Marconi - could this be some ToR set-up? Don't know. There is a further doc which looks to have interesting refs in it, inc Mayflower and TOR (ref to Locus 16) - but in Swedish ..... www.fht.nu/Dokument/Flygvapnet/flyg_publ_dok_strilsystemdokument.pdf





Input from John Pearce

In 1976 Malcolm Daniels went to Stockholm to assist Svenska Radio to submit a quotation for TOR. I was asked to accompany him as support for the systems aspects. Much to our surprise we were awarded the contract acting as sub-contractors to Svenska Radio. FMV (the equivalent to the MOD Procurement Executive) http://www.fmv.se/en/) were the project authority for the Swedish government with advisors from the airforce and a multitude of consultants. I returned to Chelmsford to a minor role in systems.

The system was based on that sold to the Yugoslavian government [Editors note - see interpolation below by Peter Bain] and this was what had been demonstrated to FMV prior to contract. TOR comprised two configurations of identical cabins. A single cabin could operate as a track reporting post and was known as TOR L. Three cabins could be interconnected to form an SOC. All cabins were "designed" to operate in forward positions over rough terrain with 30 minutes readiness from -40ºC. There were two separate software suites. The SOC could perform tracking, fighter intercept control and ground to air missile control. Incidentally the system was to be used with a 3D pop-up radar for which MRSL unsuccessfully proposed an early version of Martello. Each cabin was identical and contained four consoles comprising a PPI, a touchwire data display, keyboard, 2 tracker balls and radio comms panels. The processors were Locus 16 with software downloaded from floppy discs.

Dr. Roger Woodcock was appointed the Project Manager and Ron Howick the Systems Engineer. Prolonged discussion of the requirement which kept evolving over several years turned the Control and Data Handling System with fault reporting into a Fault Reporting System with control and data handling. (This was eventually so successful that raw national service operators were able to operate the system with 2 hours training). However the contractual side of the requirement escalation was not addressed. With a management reorganisation H.N.C Ellis-Robinson was given responsibility for Engineering and I was appointed Project Engineer. This was a hopeless task being between RH, RW, HNCR and the customer (Both SV and FMV!!). I eventually resigned the post, something unheard of in MRSL! Due to the constant input from FMV and the consultants the requirement got out of hand with corresponding cost and timescale escallation.There were no amendments to the contract either for time or cost and cancellation was often threatened.

Following the next management reorganisation I was appointed Project Manager. About this time the project became known as DBU 260. The first thing I did was to stop the customer visits to the UK thus allowing our staff to get on with the job. All meetings took place in Sweden with very limited attendees. This had the effect of accelerating the work as there were no new requirements popping up. Brian Saunders, FD at Stanmore, Keith Chittenden, then our MD, Malcolm Daniels and myself were able to lodge a successful claim for the extra work against Ericson who by then had taken over SR. Seeing Brian Saunders operate was an eye opener and quite magical. We also managed to negotiate extensions to the contract for more hardware on advantageous terms. A £5M contract costing £9.5M was eventually turned into a £16M breakeven contract. .

The hardware contract also included software maintenance and upgrade elements and these were to keep Ed Condor and others occupied for several years following system handover.


The Owl Story

(An aside by John Pearce)
Svenska Radio always supplied artistic indications of the equipment in their proposals each with some extraneous detail such as an owl or even a milk bottle outside the door. The "emblem" of DBU 260 became an owl because of this drawing (below).


Artists impression of TOR cabins (with Owl - top right corner)


More on "The Owl" from Alan Matthews
At the final handover in Sweden the customer presented a few of us, who had worked on the project for a long time, with internally, electrically lit, glass owls. These were in 3 different sizes depending on one’s “rank” in the project, large ones about 10 inches high to our senior staff, Ron Howick, John Pearce, etc., mid sized ones, about 7 inches high, for our senior engineers and 5 inch tall ones for some of our operational control and software experts.

I qualified for a middle sized one and because they were, I believe, specially commissioned for us from a Swedish glass works, they must have been expensive – even though it is just possible someone by chance found  them somewhere as a standard sales item - it would have been impolite to have asked !!











Project Staff

















TOR Project Staff - see index to names.

























TOR Project Staff 2 - see index to names 2



Interpolation by Peter Bain

Although John is correct in saying that the system sold to the Yugoslavs (Projects Bridge & Bridget) was demonstrated to the Swedes, TOR was not in fact based on it. They were offered a non-compliant solution based on Bridge or a compliant solution as a new development to meet their specific requirements. I was in the team that went out to Sweden to champion the Bridge solution to be told by the Swedes in the first few minutes of our first meeting that they were only interested in the compliant solution. Well at least there was a good party at Jock's during the visit!



Presentation of delay line 1992 - also has a good description of Fur Hat. 

Original version from December 1992 issue of News and Views


This paper is in Swedish but does include recognisable photographs


Pictures of major players and equipment            1. Major players  

                                                                      2. King Carl Gustav in control

                                                                      3. Typical console

                                                                      4. Data handling equipment

                                                                      5. Fault detection

                                                                      6. Radar office

                                                                      7. Delay line test


A very early mention of the project


A photo of Field Service personnel relaxing at Hässleholm in Sweden on "Fur Hat" can be seen in the page devoted to Peter Carr.



Comments (2)

Ian Gillis said

at 4:09 pm on Feb 11, 2016

Page checked

Ian Gillis said

at 11:39 am on Jun 24, 2020

John Drury has raised this comment: "Just been reading a description of the TOR cabin. The software was downloaded from Penney and Giles tape cartridge machines, not floppy disc!"
The referenced description is in the late John Pearce's input. The question was put to the MOGS group for clarification but no such clarification has so far been made.

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