ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. (April 16, 2013) -- As the Army prepares to conduct a full and open competition for the Manpack radio, it hosted a forum for potential industry partners to lay out the path ahead and continue dialogue.

"As a team, we're all interested in getting the best product for the Soldiers we support," said Col. Russ Wygal, the Army's project manager for tactical radios. "Our plan is to conduct a full and open competition open to any industry partner that wants to participate, and we will provide as much information as possible to facilitate a good competition."

The competition will cover the Full Rate Production (FRP) phase of the Handheld, Manpack, Small Form Fit (HMS) Manpack program and support procurements of Manpack radios for fielding with Capability Set (CS) 15 and beyond. The Army is on track to field Low Rate Initial Production (LRIP) quantities of the Manpack as part of Capability Sets 13 and 14.

Under the current tentative schedule, the Army expects to award a FRP contract to a single vendor by March 2014 and begin receiving radio deliveries in July 2014. The five-year Indefinite Delivery, Indefinite Quantity contract would include radios, installation kits, dismounted ancillaries and other associated equipment.

The official requirements criteria and competition schedule will be released to industry in a Request for Proposals (RFP) document, expected to be issued in fall 2013. The Army is seeking Manpack radio solutions that are already developed and will not provide development funding.

The Army is also conducting a full and open competition for the HMS Rifleman Radio, a strategy intended to increase competition, decrease costs and provide the most effective communications solutions to the Soldier.

"We're trying to shape this acquisition to draw the broadest possible industry participation to get the best product at the best value," said Lt. Col. Mark Stiner, product manager for HMS. "We are looking to drive down costs while still allowing flexibility and innovation."

The Manpack is a two-channel, software-defined radio that allows lower-echelon Soldiers carrying Rifleman Radios and handheld devices to connect to the network backbone through the Soldier Radio Waveform (SRW) and Single Channel Ground and Airborne Radio System (SINCGARS) waveforms. The Manpack will enhance current communications capabilities by allowing small units in austere environments to exchange voice and data information with their higher headquarters, without having to rely on a fixed infrastructure.

To conduct the competition, the Army plans to hold an initial screening test at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., and subsequent qualification test at the Electronic Proving Ground, Fort Huachuca, Ariz. The qualification test will measure radio performance in a variety of rigorous scenarios using required waveforms, so the Army can thoroughly assess the effectiveness, suitability, survivability, and reliability of each radio technology.

Industry representatives who attended the forum said it provided valuable information as they continue to prepare their radios for competition.

"We have a better handle on where we're going and when," said Rich Ross, senior director of ground communications products for Rockwell Collins. "We continue to be interested in the program and any additional information we get, including these forums, is helpful."

Dennis Moran, Harris Corporation vice president for government business development, described the session as a positive engagement between government and industry on an "important requirement for the tactical edge."

"An acquisition strategy that allows for innovation and significant costs savings is the absolute right thing to do," he said.