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National Defense > Blog > Posts > Army Kicks Off Rifleman Radio Competition, Asks Industry For Bids
Army Kicks Off Rifleman Radio Competition, Asks Industry For Bids
By Dan Parsons
 

A soldier demonstrates a Joint Battle Command-Platform Handheld and a
Joint Tactical Radio System Rifleman Radio


The Army has invited radio manufacturers to pitch their offerings for the rifleman radio on Sept. 5, kicking off the competition for the first of three devices that will form the backbone of the service’s next battlefield communications network.
 
A draft request for proposals was issued Aug. 16 by the Army’s program executive office for command, control and communications seeking industry bids for “a standalone, handheld, one channel radio, software-defined radio to support real-time, intra-squad communications to be employed worldwide in both hostile and non-hostile environments and in a variety of terrain and climatic conditions.”
 
The AN/PRC-154, made by General Dynamics and Thales Group, is carried by soldiers at the platoon, squad and team levels and is compatible with smartphones that display information such as troop movements.

At stake is a five-year “winner-take-all” contract for acquisition of as many as 120,000 rifleman radios in fiscal year 2014. The Sept. 5 event, to be held at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., will be an opportunity for Army acquisition officials to meet with interested industry competitors and discuss plans concerning rifleman radio acquisition.
 
The Army requested more than $2.3 billion for tactical radios, wireless networks and communications systems for next fiscal year.
 
The Army could spend up to $750 million on as many as 120,000 rifleman radios, 68,000 manpack radios, 2,000 vehicular four-channel radios and possibly 7,000 small airborne networking radios.
 
The 2014 budget estimates rifleman radios could cost $5,600 per unit, while manpack systems could run about $72,000. Manufacturers believe they can bring those prices down as a result of the competition.
 
The Army already has spent $8.5 billion on handheld and manpack Joint Tactical Radio System development and production. General Dynamics and Thales Communications manufacture the handheld radio. General Dynamics and Rockwell Collins make the manpack. The Army last year ordered 3,726 manpack and 19,327 handheld rifleman radios under a $250 million low-rate production contract.
 
The radio is part of the Handheld, Manpack, Small Form Fit program, also called HMS. The Pentagon this fiscal year was authorized to buy 19,000 radios in low-rate initial production. The Aug. 16 RFP is the kickoff to the full-rate production portion of the acquisition.
 
Non-incumbent manufacturers like Harris Corp. and ITT Exelis hope that they can get a foot in the door by offering radios with greater capabilities and at a lower price point than the AN/PRC-154. Other competitors such as Northrop Grumman Corp. and BAE Systems are hoping to pick up awards, as well.
 
Harris, for instance, announced in January that it will put up its RF-330E for consideration. Released after the GD-Thales radio, Harris was able to incorporate features like a longer battery life into its design.

Rifleman radios were fielded last year with the 10th Mountain Division in Afghanistan, and are scheduled for deployment with units of the 101st Airborne Division.

Still to come are solicitations for large-scale production of aircraft and vehicle-mounted radios.
 
The Government Accountability Office raised concerns about the program in a March report. “The JTRS HMS program is conducting operational testing on both the rifleman and manpack variants but has not demonstrated maturity of all technologies and production processes,” said the report. “Full-rate production decisions have been delayed for both variants and are anticipated in the third or fourth quarter of fiscal year 2013.”

Photo Credit: Army

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