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Army moving ahead with Rifleman radios

Dec. 31, 2012 - 08:20PM   |   Last Updated: Dec. 31, 2012 - 08:20PM  |  
In a recent exercise, a soldier uses the Nett Warrior system, in which a Rifleman radio is attached to a smartphone-like device that can access text, voice and data. The Army plans to decide in 2014 whether to proceed with full-rate production of Nett Warrior.
In a recent exercise, a soldier uses the Nett Warrior system, in which a Rifleman radio is attached to a smartphone-like device that can access text, voice and data. The Army plans to decide in 2014 whether to proceed with full-rate production of Nett Warrior. (Army)
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As Army budget planners begin to take a first crack at projecting potential budgets out to fiscal 2019 as part of the program objective memorandum process, the service is starting to identify procurement objectives in the out years.

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As Army budget planners begin to take a first crack at projecting potential budgets out to fiscal 2019 as part of the program objective memorandum process, the service is starting to identify procurement objectives in the out years.

For example, a weapon system review document for the Tactical Radio program, known as the JTRS Handheld, Manpack and Small Form Fit, states that the approved acquisition objective for the Rifleman Radio and the two-channel Manpack Radio by fiscal 2019 stands at 261,457, but current funding covers only 54,966, leaving a gap of 206,491 to be funded in future budgets.

Weapon system reviews are pre-decisional annual reports put together by the Department of the Army in preparation for the upcoming program objective memorandum. They're meant to help identify resource requirements for a weapon system with an eye toward long-term sustainment throughout its life cycle.

All figures and funding objectives in the documents are estimates based on current requirements, and as such are nonbinding, but they offer clues as to the service's priorities.

Several factors have helped drive up the cost of the HMS program, according to the document. First is the increase in unit cost when the Army decided to outfit four brigade combat teams a year, as opposed to the original eight to 10, while the Manpack radio low-rate initial production costs were "higher than previously projected."

Current projections also call for the purchase of 79,537 Rifleman radios between fiscal 2015 and 2019. The Army has purchased 3,826 of the two-channel Manpack radios, which allow dismounted soldiers carrying Rifleman radios and Nett Warrior hand-held devices to connect to upper echelons of command using the Soldier Radio Waveform and Single Channel Ground and Airborne Radio System waveforms.

On Sept. 17, the Army awarded a $53.9 million LRIP contract for 13,000 Rifleman radios, with work to be split between prime contractor General Dynamics C4 Systems and Thales Communications. On Oct. 17, the service also issued a request for information for industry feedback to launch a full competition to procure additional Rifleman radios.

To date, the Army has been given the green light to buy 19,327 Rifleman radios through low-rate initial production orders.

When it comes to the two- channel Manpack radio, on Nov. 30, the Army again awarded General Dynamics C4 Systems a $306 million production order for 3,726 HMS AN/PRC-155 radios. The PRC-155 weighs 14 pounds with a battery and can be either mounted in a vehicle or carried by a dismounted soldier.

Then there is the Army's ambitious Nett Warrior program, which consists of a Rifleman radio attached to a smartphone-like device that is worn by the soldier and allows him to access text, voice and data while dismounted.

Charts for that program's 2012 weapon systems review, obtained by Defense News, a sister publication to Army Times, confirm that the Army is fielding two of a projected eight brigade combat teams, along with the 75th Ranger Regiment, which deployed to Afghanistan with an earlier version of the technology in 2011. Low-rate initial production will continue through fiscal 2013, while a full-rate production decision is planned for the third quarter of fiscal 2014. The program is projected to finish procurement in fiscal 2018 and fielding in 2019.

On Nov. 13, the Army awarded a contract to General Dynamics C4 Systems for low-rate initial production and delivery of a 2-pound radio for Nett Warrior. The production order for 2,052 radios could be worth up to $11 million if all options are exercised, with deliveries to begin in the first quarter of fiscal 2013.

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