WASHINGTON — The U.S. Army chose Sierra Nevada Corp. and General Dynamics Mission Systems to build its next-generation encryption device that will secure the joint force’s future tactical network, the service announced Wednesday.
The two companies will participate in the development, production and sustainment of the Next Generation Load Device-Medium, a cryptography tool to secure the service’s network from adversaries’ cyber and electronic warfare threats. The contract, worth up to $774.2 million over 10 years, was awarded by Program Executive Office for Command, Control, Communications-Tactical.
The advanced cryptology device that will replace the Army’s legacy Simple Key Loader devices. The new capability will allow network managers to reconfigure cryptographic products, remotely download new software and improve operational environment awareness, according to a PEO C3T press release.
“The NGLD-M will enable delivery of the strongest NSA-generated cryptographic keys to tactical, strategic, and enterprise network systems operating from secret to the highest levels of security classification,” said Paul Mehney, communications director for PEO C3T. “Through over-the-air capability, modern cryptographic algorithms will be transferred by NGLD-M to counter the threats posed by increased proliferation of adversarial cyber and electronic warfare.”
The vendors will share an initial $74 million award for development and low-rate initial production, scheduled for fiscal 2024 along with an operational test.
Full-rate production of the encryption device will begin in fiscal 2025 with up to 265,000 products fielded. Once in production, the loaders will be available by units across the services, federal government and foreign military partners. The Army expects to stick with its multivendor approach through the production process and could add vendors in the future as industry capabilities mature, Mehney said.
“NGLD-M will be the biggest materiel change in cryptographic key delivery in twenty years,” Michael Badger, product lead communications security, said in a statement. “It will transform COMSEC both in the strength of keys NGLD-M can handle and in the security of its delivery mechanisms.”
The release of the NGLD-M request for proposals was delayed last summer after the Army decided to adjust its acquisition strategy. The RFP was released in November.
Andrew Eversden covers all things defense technology for C4ISRNET. He previously reported on federal IT and cybersecurity for Federal Times and Fifth Domain, and worked as a congressional reporting fellow for the Texas Tribune. He was also a Washington intern for the Durango Herald. Andrew is a graduate of American University.