Magazine article National Defense

Industry Ruggedizing, Securing Battlefield Radios

Magazine article National Defense

Industry Ruggedizing, Securing Battlefield Radios

Article excerpt

For dismounted troops, access to communications facilitated through reliable, fast and protected networks can mean the success or failure of a mission, particularly in degraded conditions. Industry is working to meet that demand by developing new equipment and optimizing networks.

At Harris Corp., the company is developing a variety of radios that are aimed for use by Special Operations Command, whose commandos are often fanned out across the globe in remote areas, said Jeff Kroon, director of engineering at the company's communications systems division.

In 2016, SOCOM's program executive office for command, control, communications and computers awarded the company a $390 million indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract for the AN/PRC-163, a next-generation handheld radio, which would upgrade the command's legacy devices from a one-channel to a two-channel system.

"That radio is designed to be for the small units ... and distributed across the whole team so they have full communications at the edge from satellite communications to wideband communications to narrowband," he said.

The systems are also equipped with electronic countermeasures such as the ability to avoid jamming, he noted. Additionally, they are simultaneously able to employ a threat-warning capability that can detect enemy radio frequency emissions.

A module attached to the back of the radio provides full intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance connectivity to stream full-motion video from various unmanned assets, he added.

In September, the company delivered test radios to the command, Kroon said.

"We got a lot of good feedback from the user community that we've incorporated," he said. "A lot of this has to do with how the user interacts with such a sophisticated device."

Prototypes of the new handheld radios were delivered to SOCOM in January, Kroon said. Production deliveries are slated for the spring.

In June 2017, the command awarded Harris an IDIQ contract worth up to $255 million for the procurement of a next-generation multi-channel Manpack radio.

The contract includes radios, a new power amplifier, vehicular systems and push-totalk headset audio subsystems, according to Harris.

That radio will offer users two channels and increased power and capability, Kroon said. Development of the device is underway but delivery is still "sometime out," he noted. …

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