WASHINGTON — The U.S. Army plans to buy a large quantity of relatively cheap, intuitive radios for future soldier networking amid a move away from brigade-centric fighting and a related communications overhaul concentrated on the much larger division.

The service’s Program Executive Office Command, Control and Communications-Tactical is eyeing the end of the year to publish a request for proposals on batches of the low-cost, single-channel radios. Such user-friendly gear could accelerate training and adoption across the service as well as ease international collaboration, according to Col. Shermoan Daiyaan, a project manager at PEO C3T.

“Some of these radios are down to the size of a cellphone. Some of the radios actually look like cellphones,” Daiyaan told C4ISRNET. “So we’re reducing size, weight and power, and we’re making the radios easier to train.”

“If we have an easier radio to train, and an easier radio to maintain, now we can field faster. If I have to give three days of training and I can get it down to one hour, that’s another unit I can move to quicker as we field the Army,” Daiyaan added.

PEO C3T published an initial request for information for the radios following Technical Exchange Meeting 9, or TEM9, in Nashville, Tennessee, in late 2022. The exchange meetings bring together Army leadership, acquisition officials and hundreds of defense industry players to discuss soldier needs — namely communications kit.

Several companies responded to the posting. Testing followed with the help of the 25th Infantry Division based in Hawaii.

“The first thing we did is we took, I want to say, six companies out to a jungle field training exercise with the 25th. And what we did, to drive home the idea of [simplicity of] use, was we gave them one hour to train the soldiers. No classroom time; they did it right there in the jungle,” Daiyaan said. “Phase two of it was here at Garuda Shield, where we took another subset of those radios and allowed the soldiers to operate them actually in Indonesia, in the jungle exercises.”

The RFP is expected in parallel with TEM11 in Savannah, Georgia, in December. Should things go to plan, Daiyaan said, “we’re going to make an award to buy at scale a larger quantity of these radios to take and allow some soldiers, some units, to field them and to gain feedback on these low-cost, simple-to-use radios in the architecture.”

The opportunities come as the Army prioritizes networking — alongside improved air and missile defense, long-range precision fires, and other areas — in the shadow of potential conflict with Russia and China. The service is also pivoting to the so-called division-as-a-unit-of-action network design, a connectivity scaffold that requires months of real-world experimentation and deliberation among leadership.

PEO C3T and the Network Cross-Functional Team rolled out the initiative earlier this year.

“When we talk about a data-centric environment, the division is a logical area for the network to service out data to brigades and battalions and the units that are operating,” said Mark Kitz, who leads PEO C3T. “What we were unveiling at Fort Myer is our ability to re-architect the network, not sort of some holistic new strategy.”

Kitz took the helm at PEO C3T in June. He previously led Program Executive Office Intelligence, Electronic Warfare and Sensors.

Colin Demarest was a reporter at C4ISRNET, where he covered military networks, cyber and IT. Colin had previously covered the Department of Energy and its National Nuclear Security Administration — namely Cold War cleanup and nuclear weapons development — for a daily newspaper in South Carolina. Colin is also an award-winning photographer.

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