Magazine article National Defense

Pentagon OKs Acquisition of Software-Based Radios

Magazine article National Defense

Pentagon OKs Acquisition of Software-Based Radios

Article excerpt

Among the Pentagon programs labeled "transformational" by the Bush administration is a multi-service radio system that, unlike most military radios today, would allow all branches of the military to communicate with each other effortlessly.

The Defense Department's budget request for the Joint Tactical Radio System increased from $90 million in fiscal 2001 to $186 million in 2002. That is only a small down-payment on what eventually could be a $3 billion investment in 260,000 radios that would replace the 750,000 radios in existence today-and would consolidate about 30 different types of radios to a single standard.

To prevent the further proliferation of serviceunique radios, the Office of the Defense Secretary mandated that the services obtain a special waiver to purchase any non-JTRS radios.

The U.S. Army views JTRS as a cornerstone of its future tactical communications. Maj. Gen. Steven W. Boutelle, the Army's director of programs and architecture, for command, control, communications and computers, said that WIN-T (warfighter information network-tactical) and JTRS are the two highest priorities in the modernization of Army communications. (See related story)

There is a joint program office for JTRS, but the Army is the "executive agent" The Pentagon's Defense Acquisition Board last month approved the initial procurement of JTRS, called Cluster 1. In this phase, the Pentagon will buy as many as 50,000 radios for Army aviation, Army ground vehicles and Air Force ground-based air-traffic controllers.

Subsequent clusters are expected to cover an additional 200,000 radios-maritime and airborne systems for the Navy and hand-held radios for the Army and the Air Force.

The JTRS will be a family of tactical radios, based on a common software architecture that is compatible with existing military radio waveforms. JTRS radios will be reprogrammed, like computers, to operate with at least 29 existing waveforms. Most radios today perform a single function and are not software-based.

A waveform-a pattern that occurs when modulation techniques are applied to a radio frequency-defines the radio's functionality.

The contractors in Cluster 1 were asked to propose a new wideband networking waveform for JTRS. The Defense Department wants the new wideband waveform to be able to manage bandwidth allocation in its networks.

Whoever is awarded a contract for the Cluster 1 procurement also will develop the wideband waveform, said Lt. Col. David Lockhart, project manager for JTRS. The goal is to have radios in the field by 2004.

The procurement strategy for JTRS is unusual, because it separates the development of software and hardware, which is not how the industry traditionally produces radios.

The two prime contractors expected to compete in Cluster 1 -the (See ACQUISITION, pg. 18) Raytheon Co. and the Boeing Co.-can only participate as systems integrators and are excluded from the hardware production work. Each integrator must line up at least two radio manufacturers to compete against each other for future production work.

"The Army wants two sources for just about everything in the system," said Richard E. Hitt Jr., director of business development at the Raytheon Co's communications division. "We are talking to a lot of companies," Hitt said. "We are interviewing contractors for different positions. …

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