The U.S. Army has awarded three companies with contracts to manufacture more battlefield radios for soldiers.
The service on Monday announced General Dynamics Corp., based in Falls Church, Virginia; Harris Corp., based in Melbourne, Florida; and Rockwell Collins, based in Cedar Rapids, Iowa; received agreements to build more of the so-called manpack radios. The value wasn't specified in the Army's press release, though the Pentagon daily contract announcements from Friday listed it at $12.7 billion through 2026.
The Army's first two-channel digital networking radio, the devices can be worn in a soldier's rucksack or mounted in a vehicle. They're part of the Joint Tactical Radio System, a family of radios in development since the 1990s.
“By leveraging the radio marketplace we are procuring next generation Manpack radios that fit Soldiers’ needs,” Col. James P. Ross, project manager for Tactical Radios, said in a press release. “Just like cell phones that Soldiers use every day, the two-channel Manpack radio enables Soldiers to stay connected to their peers and commanders by talking, texting and sending data.”
Each vendor has two months to provide 30 radios to the Army for testing to ensure the devices meet the service's requirements, the release states. If so, the Army will buy 60 from each vendor for the so-called customer-test phase, scheduled for the second quarter of fiscal 2017, it states.
The radios currently weigh about 19 pounds, including the device itself, two batteries and supporting gear such as a pair of handheld microphones, antennas, a GPS antenna and the battery bucket, the release states. The Army wants to decrease the weight to 16 pounds while still supporting an eight-hour mission -- and eventually to 14 pounds by fiscal 2025, it states.
The Army in 2013 said it planned to spend upwards of $1.4 billion on digital radios for the battlefield, half of which was designated for the manpack radios. The service is authorized to buy as many as 60,296 of the devices, the release states. So far, it has purchased 5,326 of them through low-rate initial production, or LRIP, contracts, it states.
The technology has been fielded to seven brigade combat teams in the 1oth Mountain (Light Infantry), 101st Airborne (Air Assault) and 82nd Airborne Divisions, including those who have deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, the release states.
Note: This post was updated to list the potential contract value in the second paragraph.