Army eyes options for filling an ‘urgent need’ for tactical radios

A soldier uses a JTRS Rifleman Radio during a network evaluation exercise in 2011.

A soldier uses a JTRS Rifleman Radio during a network evaluation exercise in 2011. U.S. Army

The service needs to equip a brigade heading to Afghanistan in 2013.

Army leaders could turn to the General Services Administration to fill an “urgent need” to equip a brigade combat team scheduled for deployment to Afghanistan in 2013 with commercially developed, vehicle-mounted radios, the service disclosed in a contract notice yesterday. The radios are part of the Joint Tactical Radio System the military is developing for battlefield operations.

The Army kicked off a fast-track procurement in February to acquire 5,000 vehicle-mounted radios that run a government-owned soldier radio waveform, which uses software to manage frequencies and bandwidth. This waveform is used in both handheld and backpack JTRS radios, developed by General Dynamics, which are undergoing a formal test this month at White Sands Missile Range, N.M., as part of the service’s network integration evaluation.

Paul Mehney, a spokesman for the Army's System of Systems Integration Directorate, said the service wants the option of using GSA contracts as a “contingency bridge” to field vehicle radios to one of three brigade combat teams slated for deployment in 2013 while it continues to develop a formal request for proposals for an indefinite delivery-indefinite quantity contract that could cover the purchase of up to 5,000 radios.

Mehney said the Army may use GSA contracts to acquire 280 radios to quickly equip a brigade scheduled for deployment next year. Based on industry estimates that the vehicle radios will cost under $20,000each, this puts the value of the GSA buy at under $5.6 million.

The Army already has equipped two of those three brigades with AN/PRC-117G radios from Harris Corp. to meet vehicle requirements and will receive an unspecified number of the Harris radios in October.

Service leaders decided to purchase the vehicle JTRS radios based on feedback from soldiers at the 2011 network integration evaluation to serve as a communications bridge from the foxhole to brigade tactical operations centers.

Mehney said the Army will make a decision in October on whether to use the GSA schedule or its own contract vehicle to buy the vehicle radios. Potential bidders include BAE Systems, General Dynamics, Harris, Northrop Grumman and Thales Communications, industry sources said.

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