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National Defense > Blog > Posts > Army Gets Green Light to Acquire New Vehicle Radios
Army Gets Green Light to Acquire New Vehicle Radios
By Sandra I. Erwin
 

BAE Systems' Phoenix Family of Mid-tier Networking Vehicular Radios

Pentagon weapons acquisition chief Frank Kendall has cleared the way for the Army to purchase 232 high-bandwidth radios that would provide combat brigades with mobile, high-speed communications.

"I authorize the Army to proceed with its contracting activities to meet MNVR requirements," Kendall wrote in a Sept. 20 "acquisition decision memorandum" to the secretary of the Army.

MNVR is short for mid-tier networking vehicular radio. It would replace the four-channel "ground mobile radio" that Kendall ordered the Army to terminate in 2011 because of massive cost overruns.

Kendall agreed to give the program another shot after the Army promised it would avoid costly development work and would, instead, buy an existing radio from the open market.

The Army expects to announce within days what vendor it has selected to provide 232 radios for test and evaluation. The Pentagon has not yet given the Army authorization to go into full-rate production. "The program will enter the formal acquisition process at MS C [milestone C] following completion of applicable statutory and regulatory requirements," Kendall wrote.

The MNVR must operate the Defense Department's radio software applications known as the Wideband Networking Waveform and Soldier Radio Waveform. The mid-tier radios are the linchpins of an Internet-like mobile ad-hoc network that also must be interoperable with current SINCGARS combat-net radios. Each Army brigade requires at least 40 to 50 radios to create a mobile network.

Contenders for the initial MNVR buy, estimated to be worth about $120 million, include BAE Systems, General Dynamics, Raytheon Co., Northrop Grumman Corp. and Harris RF Communications. Since the termination of the Boeing-made ground mobile radio, Harris has been supplying its AN/PRC-117G wideband radios as a stopgap system.

Kendall's memorandum, industry sources said, should be welcome relief for an Army that has struggled to field new radios under the Joint Tactical Radio System program. Service officials have sought to improve tactical communications technologies over the past decade as it became clear that soldiers in the field did not have adequate systems to connect up and down the chain of command.

“The network is the Army's number-one priority,” said Davis S. Welch, deputy director of Army budget. “The network is critical to empowering our soldiers and leaders with the right information at the right time to make decisions,” he said at a Pentagon news conference.

If the MNVR program is carried to fruition, it would be a small victory for the beleaguered JTRS program, a family of software programmable devices with a troubled history of cost overruns and technological setbacks. By the time Kendall pulled the plug on the ground mobile radio, the Army had poured $6 billion into program and only had a few dozen radios.

Photo Credit: BAE Systems

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