December 15, 2011

U.S. Army completes key operational tests of General Dynamics' Rifleman Radio

News Report

We have already highlighted the importance of U.S. Army's Network Integration Evaluations (NIEs) as an effective process to integrate and mature the U.S. Army’s tactical network, as well as to evaluate deliberate and rapid acquisition solutions (NIE has been selected as one of the key C4I trends of the last months).

In such context, we report a recent press release from General Dynamics which announces that the JTRS HMS AN/PRC-154 Rifleman radio completed its Initial Operational Test and Evaluation during the U.S. Army’s recently concluded NIE 12.1 at Fort Bliss, Texas. Members of the 2nd Brigade, 1st Armored Division (2/1 AD) evaluated the AN/PRC-154 Rifleman radio in a variety of tactical exercises that included convoy operations, reconnaissance, counterinsurgency and medical evacuation missions.

The Rifleman radio, one of the Joint Tactical Radio System (JTRS) Handheld, Manpack, Small Form Fit (HMS) family of radios, is the first JTRS radio to use the Soldier Radio Waveform (SRW) to enable secure networked communications among platoon, squad and team-level soldiers and their leaders. The Initial Operational Test and Evaluation is the last formal test required by the military before the radios enter full-rate production.

During the NIE exercise, soldiers used the radios in conjunction with handheld devices running Joint Battle Command-Platform software, i.e. the future version of the U.S. Army's friendly force tracking and messaging system, which also allows users to plot hazards and enemy locations on a digital map. Plugged into the Rifleman Radio, these devices provided mission command and situational awareness information down to soldiers at the tactical edge.

During the test, the Army captured data on the radio's performance in two ways: through instrumentation on the systems themselves, and through human data collectors who accompanied soldiers throughout their missions. U.S. Army will evaluate those test results during the coming months, as it finalizes the makeup of its network Capability Set 13, which will begin fielding to up to eight brigade combat teams in fiscal year 2013.

The System

General Dynamics' Rifleman Radio delivers networking connectivity to the frontline soldier in a lightweight, ruggedized, body worn device. The radio transmits voice and data simultaneously utilizing the Soldier Radio Waveform (SRW), which operates in the 1.755-1.850 GHZ frequency range and supports digital 16 KBPS voice and data at 1 MBPS.

SRW represents a networking waveform capable to perform in a complex military environment, in the presence of adversarial threats, and providing a secure high-bandwidth communications link specifically designed for platforms that are small, light, don’t consume much power and use low-profile antennas.

The AN/PRC-154 is body worn, minimizing the warfighter’s combat load while increasing functionality. Designed to bring secure (Type 2) inter-squad communications to any warfighter on the tactical edge of the battlefield, this radio also enables Team and Squad Leaders to track individual soldier GPS locations. This radio connects every warfighter to the combat network, emphasizing safety and enabling enhanced situational awareness and better decisions at the very edge of the battlefield.

The software-programmable AN/PRC-154 radios, which can use encryption to safeguard information, are built to send Internet Protocol packets of data, voice, video and images via multiple waveforms between static command centers, vehicles on the move, and dismounted individual soldiers on patrol. The JTRS waveforms, SRW and the Wideband Networking Waveform, known as WNW, are integrated with the satellite communications backbone of the Army network, Warfighter Information Network-Tactical, or WIN-T, to transmit that information on the upper tactical internet.

The Context

The Rifleman Radio is part of the JTRS Handheld, Manpack, Small Form Fit, or simply JTRS HMS, family of radios.

JTRS HMS is a materiel solution meeting the requirements to support U.S. Special Operations Command, U.S. Army, U.S. Marine Corps, U.S. Air Force, and U.S. Navy communication needs.

In June 2011, the JTRS HMS program achieved a Milestone C decision, enabling the Low Rate Initial Production of 6,250 AN/PRC-154 Rifleman and 100 AN/PRC-155 Manpack radios. JTRS HMS radios take full advantage of the government’s library of waveforms, including the Soldier Radio Waveform, and in the future, the Mobile User Objective System (MUOS) and Wideband Networking Waveform (WNW) critical to communicating on the U.S. Army’s emerging tactical communications network.

The Embedded Small Form Fit versions of HMS will be used for Joint Service Ground Sensor Networks, Intelligent Munitions deployment and usage, Unmanned Vehicles and other platform applications, including support for the Early-Infantry Brigade Combat Team technical performance and integration.

General Dynamics C4 Systems is prime contractor for the JTRS HMS program. The JTRS HMS team includes BAE Systems, Rockwell Collins, and Thales Communications.

The results of the tests on the Rifleman Radio should now dissolve the questions of a possible affect of the JTRS GMR program termination on the JTRS HMS program. As already discussed, large cost overruns and numerous schedule delays forced the U.S. Army to cancel the JTRS Ground Mobile Radio system. The GMR program has been terminated on last October in line with the Nunn-McCurdy statute, which calls for a program's termination once unit-procurement costs exceed the original estimate by 25 percent unless it is deemed essential to national security.


We’re getting great feedback from soldiers who prefer the Rifleman radio, rather than lugging bulky wideband handheld radios that require extra batteries,” said Chris Brady, vice president of Assured Communications for General Dynamics C4 Systems. “With the Rifleman Radio, soldiers can connect their cell phone or computer and join the network—anywhere they fight.

"I use it for overall command and control because it builds a network that allows me to talk to my subordinate elements," said Capt. Ryan McNally, company commander with the 2/1 AD. "It's the first time I've actually had radios down at the squad level. So my dismounted riflemen, they all have the radio as well. It allows them to talk to their team leaders when they're spread out, and also allows them to talk to the squad leader."

"No matter what kind of organization you're running, if you have dismounts who are going to be on the ground you like to be able to see where your personnel are," said 2nd Lt. Travis V. Mount, 2/1 AD platoon leader, speaking about the capability of the Rifleman Radio to show the positions of his troops, which allowed him to save time by immediately adapting and executing his plans rather than tracking down personnel first. "If all I need is information on their position, I don't have to go through an intermediary. I can on the spot adapt my plan."

"Instead of having to go to the tactical operations center at the end of the day to download the information on the events and observations, I can either (do it in) real time or when I have a lull in the mission," Mount said. "I can just plug it in right there."

Further Readings
  • Joint Tactical Radio System HMS (pdf)

References: General Dynamics (1,2), JITC (3), Defense Systems (4), DVIDS (5), JPEOJTRS(6)

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