HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass., Sept. 25, 2006 – The Air Force Joint Tactical Radio System Program Office, part of the Electronic Systems Center’s Airborne Network Management Division, recently awarded the first Department of Defense contract for a JTRS radio.
The $7.6 million JTRS Handheld radio contract awarded through competitive bid to Thales Communications Corp. is considered an “interim solution,” said Capt. Michael Broadaway, Air Force JTRS program manager. The future iteration of this radio will comply with the full JTRS Operational Requirements Document.
This award, however, is putting “the first iteration” of a JTRS radio in the hands of U.S. warfighters now and is meeting their near-term needs, he said.
“This purchase is the first JTRS radio buy within the Department of Defense,” said Col. Anita Latin, commander of the 653d Electronic Systems Group, which oversees the Airborne Network Management Division.
“This is a historical moment for the Air Force, because it provides an immediate capability increase while moving us along an evolutionary path toward the ultimate JTRS solution,” she noted.
The JTRS radios envisioned by the Department of Defense, expected to begin coming on line in the 2011 or 12 timeframe, are based on software development that enables one radio to handle various waveforms, said Charlie Dancy of the MITRE Corp., the team’s engineering lead. This will allow an unprecedented cross-flow of information with a lot less hardware.
For the soldier – or tactical air control party member – on the ground, as well as for platform managers dealing with space constraints, there are obvious benefits to no longer needing multiple radios.
The greatest benefit, though, will be the increase in warfighting efficiency, where easier and better inter-service communication can make all the difference.
Current radio systems lack interoperability across the spectrum and have insufficient bandwidth to meet all current and anticipated future communications needs.
This initial procurement provides immediate relief to the warfighters in Afghanistan and Iraq who are currently borrowing radios from the Army to communicate with U.S. soldiers.
The ultimate JTRS solution is a family of all-service radios and a new wideband networked waveform that can provide mobile, networked connectivity.
Another key, according to Dancy, is that the new, ‘software-defined’ radios will be “backward-compatible;” that is, compatible with the current waveforms in use today.
“This award is just the tip of the iceberg of a $2.9 billion Air Force JTRS procurement effort,” Broadaway said.
The radios will be used by Air Force Special Operations Command operators, Security Forces and Civil Engineers.