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Rifleman Radio Competition Heats Up 

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By Valerie Insinna 

Vendors could have another chance to score a production contract for the rifleman radio as early as this spring, when the Army opens up the competition before moving to full-rate production.

The Army has so far ordered almost 20,000 radios from General Dynamics Corp. and Thales Group during low-rate initial production, but competitors such as Northrop Grumman Corp., BAE Systems, ITT Exelis and Harris Corp. are hoping to pick up awards of their own. 

The handheld rifleman radio, one of the few survivors of the now defunct Joint Tactical Radio System program, can be linked with other electronic devices to send text messages, GPS information and data.

Harris announced in January that it will put up its RF-330E for consideration. Because its radio was launched after General Dynamics and Thales released their versions, Harris was able to incorporate new features into the RF-330E, said retired Army Maj. Gen. Dennis Moran, the company’s vice president of Defense Department business development.

The radio has a battery life of more than 14 hours. It uses the same batteries and chargers as its Thales and General Dynamics counterparts, but the Harris radio uses commercial cell phone chips that are less power-hungry, Moran said. “Consequently, the resulting battery life goes way up.”

Another added feature is a screen that displays the status of the radio and whether it is properly operating in the network.

The Army is expected to put out a request for proposals in March, and the first delivery orders could be issued as early as the end of summer, Moran said. However, before the service can issue the request, Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Frank Kendall must approve the acquisition strategy.

Meanwhile, the Army is testing the RF-330E from February to April as part of the Advanced Warfighting Experiment at Ft. Benning, Ga.

“We’ll get a feel for whether the soldiers are happy with them and if there’s anything that we need to fine tune,” Moran said. The experiment was not part of the acquisition process, he added.
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