Part outsider, part incumbent, Harris Corp. is eagerly upsetting applecarts by taking on defense industry colossus General Dynamics and other established contractors in its bid to grab a hat trick in this year’s Army radio competitions. The largest service is expected to make awards in three of its largest communications programs this year as early… Keep reading →
As the Army prepares to choose the new builder of its handheld digital radios, the incumbent contractors are tryiing to convince Congress to keep other companies out. The incumbents are General Dynamics, which publicly apologized to the Army over its half of the program last year, and Rockwell Collins. The Army’s own chief of acquisitions,… Keep reading →
WASHINGTON: While Army forces in Afghanistan have more bandwidth and gadgetry than ever, bases back home still make do with archaic copper-wire telephone switches. As the war winds down and units increasingly operate out of the US, the challenge for the Army’s CIO is to move the whole service to a single set of compatible, cloud-based systems.
“How do we get the network right?” Lt. Gen. Susan Lawrence, the Army’s Chief Information Officer, aka the G-6, asked at an Association of the US Army breakfast. “We’re going to propose that [cloud-based] strategy to [Chief of Staff] Gen. [Ray] Odierno on Saturday the 17th.” Keep reading →
WASHINGTON: The Army took a major step today towards opening up a major radio program to full and open competition, issuing a formal Request For Information today asking industry’s input on the Rifleman Radio program.
[More on this story: Radio contractor General Dynamics apologizes to the Army] Keep reading →
ARLINGTON, VA: At $2.6 million, the contract award that Lockheed Martin will announce today to upgrade something called the Distributed Common Ground System is a rounding error in the aerospace giant’s $46.5 billion annual revenue. But in an age of austerity, when mega-programs like Lockheed’s flagship Joint Strike Fighter are under ever-increasing scrutiny, small can be beautiful. The DCGS approach — modest, incremental, and based on free open-source software — is an interesting model for a difficult era.
DCGS does what’s called “fusion,” combining “intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance” (ISR) data from different kinds of drones and manned aircraft into a single coherent picture for analysts on the ground. The different services all have their different variants, with something called the DCGS Integrated Backbone (DIB) supposed to connect them. That’s the kind of complex IT integration challenge that has bedeviled programs like the Joint Tactical Radio System (JTRS) and the Army’s Future Combat System (FCS) — for which Lockheed also did fusion work before its cancellation in 2009 — and at one point DIB seemed headed down that same, well-trodden road to nowhere. Keep reading →
CAPITOL HILL: Several defense giants battled today over $500 million in 2013 funding for a radio program as the House defense policy bill headed to the floor.
The fight centered on two versions of the Joint Tactical Radio System, the Mid-Tier Networking Vehicular Radio MNVR (son of GMR) and the HMS tactical radio. Company lawyers parsed language of the amendment that appeared to guarantee General Dynamics would win all the business for the two radios, which are slated to get roughly $500 million in 2013. The bipartisan amendment was introduced by Rep. Dave Loesback and co-sponsored by Rep. Trent Frank. Members of the House Rules Committee, which must approve amendments, were relentlessly pursued by lobbyists from GD, we hear. Keep reading →
A mobile Army command-and-control system called “WIN-T Increment 2″ set up for testing at Aberdeen Proving Grounds.
Army Seeks New Network Tech For New Brigades’ Post-Afghanistan Missions Keep reading →
The Army’s attempt to reboot its troubled Ground Mobile Radio program has hit yet another snag, with accusations that the revised requirements omit a crucial capability to protect soldiers’ signals from enemy jamming and accidental interference. As a result, wrote defense analyst, consultant, and AOL contributor Loren Thompson in a recent blog post, “soldiers dependent on timely, life-saving information carried on battlefield radios might lose their connection during the most dangerous moments of a fight.” On background, however, Army officials insist the anti-jamming capability hasn’t gone away at all. (An official explanation is expected early this week). So who’s right?
Thompson says he got his information from two different companies competing for the contract, and an industry official from yet a third company confirmed it independently to Breaking Defense. The Army may think it’s got anti-jamming covered, Thompson told Breaking Defense, “but when [some of] the main competitors think the requirement is not in the solicitation, something has been lost in the communications here.” Keep reading →
Washington: After a series of successful flight tests in New Mexico last week, a version of the Joint Tactical Radio System could be back in the Army’s arsenal as soon as next fiscal year.
An airborne version of the Lockheed Martin-built radio, known as Airborne/Maritime Fixed JTRS, flew several test flights aboard the Army’s newest Apache attack helicopter last week. The tests coincided with the service’s ongoing Network Integration Experiment at White Sands Missile Range. The AMF-equipped Apache flew one of its six operational “vignettes” as part of the NIE, Mark Norris, Lockheed’s vice president for AMF JTRS, said. The other five were conducted by company officials, he said.Program officials put the AMF through its paces during the drills. The first two tests looked at the radio’s effective range and ability to connect with ground units, said Doug Booth, director of business development for the system. The next three exercises examined how fast the radio could reconnect with ground units after a signal loss, as well as the system’s ability to transmit imagery from the Apache’s on-board camera. The final test, with the Army, looked at how AMF performed within the the service’s network. Without going into operational specifics, Booth said the radio passed all six tests “with flying colors.”
Service officials will decide whether to move AMF into initial production in early fiscal year 2013.
That decision will coincide with service plans to replace the handheld version of JTRS known as the Ground Mobile Radio. Excessive costs and schedule delays prompted the cancellation of that Boeing-built JTRS variant in October. Lackluster performances at past NIEs helped seal the program’s fate, Army acquisition chief Heidi Shyu said at the Association of U.S. Army’s annual conference that month.
Overall success of AMF aside, there are a few things the Lockheed team still has to work out on the program. Getting the radio to work flawlessly with both the Apache and the Army communications network is one of those challenges, noted Alex Moore, AMF business development lead for Lockheed. “Integration is going to be a big piece . . .and we are just trying to take it one step at a time,” he said. During the imagery tests there was some difficulty between the Apache and AMF with collecting the images, he said. But once the data was moved into the Army network, the data moved “seamlessly”, Moore added. That issue among others were just “small pieces that [we] have to work through,” Booth said.
Just getting the AMF-equipped Apache ready for live-flight tests was a significant achievement on its own, Norris explained. Lockheed officials outfitted the helicopter with AMF, synced up the radio with the helicopter’s own communications systems and got it flying in a matter of weeks. “I would challenge anybody to do that,” he said.
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. Keep reading →