Washington: Just weeks after the Army canceled the JTRS Ground Mobile Radio system, the service is rushing to test a number of industry prototypes during the Network Integration Exercises at White Sands Missile Range.

Army officials have already picked the Harris-built Falcon III wideband radio as the interim replacement for the GMR system, Dennis Moran, the company’s vice president for government business affairs, told me yesterday.

The Low-Cost Reduced Size Radio effort will only consider radios that are already in production. That could help the Army save millions in research and development dollars. “The world, as far as tactical radios, has changed in the past few years,” the Harris executive said. The Army “is seeing that and taking advantage of the investments,” made by industry, he noted. Service officials plan to issue a formal proposals request for the LCRS radio this month.

Until then, the Army plans to use the Falcon III as its main wideband ground radio, according to Moran.The Army has fielded earlier versions of the Falcon to Afghanistan over the past three years, he said. Nearly 3,000 Falcons are already being used by Army units in the field, Moran added. “Our strategy was to always grow that capability over time” and to keep increasing the Falcon’s capabilities with each iteration, he said.

The Army plans to deploy the Falcon III with eight brigade combat teams in fiscal 2012. The ongoing tests at the NIE will help get the Falcon ready for that deployment, Moran said. The ongoing NIE is more of a “dress rehearsal” for the kinds of conditions and situations the Falcon will be exposed to in the field, Moran said. The Falcon is also being pushed “deeper into the formation” compared to past NIEs, he added.

In past network drills, Army leaders limited the radio’s use to the company and brigade levels, Moran said. This time around service planners are pushing that down to the platoon and squad levels. That approach is “absolutely spot on” for Army to vet key aspects of the Falcon and the eventual GMR replacement during the NIE, according to Moran. “There is nobody that is going to stress [the radio] harder than a soldier,” he said.

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