Communications Equipment is part of the basic equipment intrinsic not only to military units like BattleMechs and combat vehicles but some support and civilian vehicles as well. Beyond these fundamental systems is secondary, specialized "comm gear" that is more powerful and allows for more and varied uses. This expanded communications equipment allow for point-to-point operations (without bouncing) averaging 50 kilometers in range, while more advanced versions can uplink with Satellites and other orbiting spacecraft. The largest of these devices can even link to HPG stations to allow for interstellar communication.
The use of this extra communications equipment is practically infinite. In civilian use it can allow a state-of-the-art newsvid van to report on the latest crisis with up-to-the-minute details or allow a traffic-control airship to direct incoming and departing vehicles more efficiently. Combat and support vehicles which dedicate extra tonnage for communications equipment most commonly fulfill the role of battlefield command centers, allowing them to coordinate maneuvers or monitor Remote Sensors.
Communications Equipment is always assumed to be active in gameplay so long as it is not hit or destroyed, the unit's sensors and cockpit are undamaged, and the engine is running. A unit with 3 to 6 tons of Communications Equipment grants a +1 Initiative bonus to their side, while a unit with 7 or more tons grants a +2 bonus. This bonus is lost if the unit takes a Commander Hit critical hit, or if it was hit and expended MP in the previous turn.
Units with a minimum of 4 tons of Communications Equipment may determine if there are any Satellites within range and attempt an uplink. Friendly satellites may be uplinked automatically, while neutral and hostile satellites must be hacked into to gain their benefits. Only one side may control a satellite at any one time, and no side can accumulate multiple benefits from multiple satellites, though players may attempt to hack control of the satellite away from their opponent. Benefits gained from a satellite uplink replace the Initiative bonus normally granted by Communications Equipment.
Any unit mounting 3 to 6 tons of Communications Equipment can generate an ECCM field the same size as that generated by an Inner Sphere Guardian ECM, though only equal in strength to half its weight. A unit with 7 or more tons can do so equal to 1 ECM suite. However, operating Communications Equipment in this way means all other bonus modifiers are lost.
Using Double-Blind Rules, if a mounts 3 to 6 tons of Communications Equipment, each unit on its side can receive a bonus in using sensors to detect the enemy, while a unit mounting seven or more gives a larger bonus.
BattleMechs, combat vehicles, aerospace and conventional fighters automatically posses a basic amount of communication equipment as part of their cockpit and control systems equivalent to 1 ton. The same is true for DropShips and Small Craft, which contain the equivalent of 3 tons. All Large Craft are considered to have 7 or more tons of Communications Equipment. Additional equipment must be installed in full-ton lots, to a maximum of 15 per unit, and require 1 critical slot per ton for 'Mechs and IndustrialMechs added to the Critical Hits Table within the same body section. Combat and support vehicles require only 1 slot for the entire suite, while aerospace units may treat it as cargo; for both types of units 1 crewman is added to the minimum crew needs per ton of cargo. ProtoMechs are not allowed to mount communication equipment.
- TechManual, p. 212, "Communications Equipment"
- Tactical Operations, pp. 194-195, "Communications Equipment (Mobile HQs)"
- Tactical Operations, pp. 100-101, "ECM Suites - Communications Equipment"
- Tactical Operations, p. 224, "Communications Equipment"