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After cancellation, Army pivots to new radio strategy

Joint Tactical Radio System-Ground Mobile Radio? What Joint Tactical Radio System-Ground Mobile Radio?

The Army is marching right along after canceling Boeing's underwhelming, over-budget GMR, it says. Like the best battlefield commanders of yesteryear, it's going to wheel left and flank this requirement with a new "'Non-Developmental Item' effort designed to procure lower-cost, commercially-available radios able to meet JTRS GMR requirements, service officials said," per its official story.

The JTRS saga might have been a national "60 Minutes"-type story if it were glamorous like a fighter jet or had the heartbreak qualities of MRAPs or body armor, but fortunately for DoD, it seems to have mostly stayed inside the family. The Army and the other services have wanted the joint family of radios for years now, and although parts of the program are phasing in, they're behind schedule. But as we've seen, today's Army acquisition officials aren't the type to let the sun catch 'em cryin' -- as their official story makes clear, they believe they can still get the capability they want here. Remember how the Army rejected the notion that its Comanche helicopter was a failure, because some of its progress theoretically trickled forward? Get ready:

This NDI effort is designed to harness years of investment and technological progress associated with JTRS GMR development and procure available radios that can transmit information using high bandwidth, non-proprietary waveforms such as Wideband Networking Waveform (WNW) and Soldier Radio Waveform (SRW) able to move voice, video, data and images across the force in real time.

SRW is targeted for the individual Soldier, individual small units and sensors; WNW can move information longer distances and is designed for technologies such as Aerostat blimps, vehicles and mobile command posts. Both waveforms can contribute greatly to the creation of a mobile, ad-hoc terrestrial network able to connect dismounted units in austere, forward locations to other units and up to higher echelons of command.

"The key piece is that we have waveforms that deliver capability. Now, as part of this evolution we are going to go back out to industry and say, 'can you deliver these waveforms at a lower cost?'" said [Brig. Gen. Michael] Williamson [joint program executive officer for JTRS]. The maturation of these waveforms combined with technical advances in the radio market make the NDI approach a positive step forward for the Army, Williamson said.

"What we have done is develop non-proprietary waveforms. Radio manufacturers that want to leverage this do not have to start from scratch and develop their own waveform. They can port the waveform we have tested and developed onto their radio so we can achieve the interoperability," said [the Army's acquisitions boss, Heidi] Shyu.

Similar to the GMR radios, the NDI solutions will be able to better network the force by using WNW and SRW to move information and connect units on-the-move to one-another. Many of the proposed radio solutions will have two channels, and the new radios will also be backward compatible with legacy or existing radios already in use across the services such as Single Channel Ground and Airborne Radio System (SINCGARS) and Enhanced Position Location Reporting System (EPLRS) radios. A formal RFP asking industry to propose technical solutions to meet the NDI requirements is expected in the coming weeks, Williamson said.

See that? The Army won't miss a beat, it thinks. There's only one small challenge, one the Marines are dealing with on a larger scale with their new amphibious vehicle: If the system that performed the task you wanted got too expensive to buy, but you still want to perform the task in question, how can you develop another system that does the same thing without it falling victim to the same fate as the first? Show Full Article

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