Army Soldiers orient a Mobile Subscriber Equipment communications tower.
In the 1980s, the U.S. military began looking for ways to update its battlefield communications network. Challenges faced by Soldiers on the ground during early Cold War-era conflicts in Korea and Vietnam had exposed shortcomings in the force’s terrestrial radio system. The Army needed a replacement that offered enhanced range, better error correction, data capability, and the ability to automate call routing and switching, which would allow signal operators to manage more users at once. A massive research effort yielded the first major leap in field communications since the World War II crystal radio—Mobile Subscriber Equipment or MSE, the precursor to the modern mobile phone.