Funny, we were just talking about the Joint Tactical Radio System -- this week, General Dynamics announced a $56.4 million order for a batch of JTRS radios: The Army wants 6,250 rifleman and 100 manpack radios, the company says, which the defense industry hopes will just be a small taste of the total sets that DoD eventually will buy. (GD's announcement says the Army would like some 190,000 rifleman and about 50,000 manpack radios.)
Company officials say JTRS gives grunts the best voice and data linkups they've ever had on the battlefield, and will tie everyone together better as they make their way into the field in greater numbers. Here's how the company put it in its announcement:
JTRS HMS Rifleman radios will enable soldiers on the battlefield to have secure, mobile voice, video and data communications capabilities that are similar to those available through commercial cellular networks.When DoD authorizes these radios for full-rate production, the plan is for at least two contractors to compete to see who can give the best deal.
“The rifleman radio, enabled by the Soldier Radio Waveform, will be the first secure tactical radio to extend the network down to the individual soldier, significantly improving their safety and mission effectiveness,” said Chris Brady, a vice president of General Dynamics C4 Systems. “The two-channel Manpack radio bridges Rifleman networks to both legacy and future high-level command networks so everyone in the force is on the same page.”
The Rifleman radios recently demonstrated their value and utility in a March 2011 exercise conducted by the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division. In a follow-up report by the unit’s commanding officer, Maj. Gen. James L. Huggins said that the radios performed in “remarkable fashion,” effectively filling critical communications gaps that are unmet by current tactical communication systems. These gap-filling capabilities include secure voice and data communications, improved command-and-control and non-line-of-sight communications at the battalion level and below; and improved situational awareness for dismounted soldiers.
The initial 100 Manpack radios will be used for further operational testing to support full-rate production. For the LRIP order, General Dynamics and Thales Communications will manufacture the Rifleman radios while General Dynamics and Rockwell Collins will build the Manpack radios.