By Argie Sarantinos-Perrin, PM Tactical Radios staff writerJuly 14, 2015
The Army's competitive radio marketplace is paving the path toward Full Rate Production (FRP) for both the Rifleman and Manpack Radios. The Army recently awarded contracts to two vendors for its Handheld, Manpack and Small Form Fit (HMS) Rifleman Radio and is soon preparing to release the final Request For Proposals (RFP) for the Manpack Radio.
Program management is also taking proactive steps to ensure cost effective execution of both the Rifleman and Manpack radio efforts. As the Army moves to procurement of next-generation radios, the HMS program's Non-Developmental Item full and open competition, multi-vendor approach is projected to increase efficiency over time by procuring already developed hardware items. The program recently worked with the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army for Cost and Economics (DASA-CE) staff to conduct an independent assessment of program lifecycle costs to ensure they have remained consistent with the Program Acquisition Strategy and are in line with the current Acquisition Program Baseline. DASA-CE has provided concurrence with the program office's estimating assumptions and cost modeling methodologies and agrees that they project a realistic estimate consistent with the Acquisition Strategy.
Now that the Rifleman Radio contracts have been awarded, the HMS team is determining if threshold requirements have been met with the 50 Rifleman Radios that each of the two vendors provided, at no cost to the government. If a vendor does not meet qualifications it will be off-ramped, however, there will be on-ramp opportunities for vendors whose technologies mature after the initial competition and operational tests. Once contracts are awarded for HMS FRP Manpack Radios, the HMS team will conduct the same scenario using 30 Manpack Radios that each vendor provides. Fielding for the Rifleman Radio is scheduled to begin in Fiscal Year 2017 and in Fiscal Year 2018 for the Manpack Radios.
"We are working closely with industry to provide Soldiers with radios that have high-speed, high-capacity voice and data so that they can execute their missions," said Col. James P. Ross, project manager for Tactical Radios. "With successive competitive delivery orders over time, we plan to get radios that have better capabilities, including more power and battery life and lower weight."
Prior to releasing the RFPs, the Army held numerous industry days and one-on-one forums to give vendors an opportunity to ask questions, gather information and provide their input regarding the draft RFPs for both radios. The Army also collected feedback from Soldiers that was used to determine requirements for the radios. In response to the feedback, the Army added additional objective requirements for a two channel hand-held Rifleman Radio. Using the Single Channel Ground and Airborne Radio System waveform, Single Channel SATCOM, or Soldier Radio Waveform, a two channel Rifleman Radio will enable communication on both channels simultaneously.
In response to Soldier feedback from NIE 14.2, the HMS team worked with the Natick Soldier Systems Center to develop a prototype Multi-Day Rucksack for the dismounted Manpack Radio. The prototype addresses the capability gap for a rucksack that allows Soldiers to carry sustainment gear for at least a 72 hour mission while simultaneously meeting specific cooling requirements of the Manpack. Soldiers that used the new rucksack commented that the radios are positioned higher on the frame, which provides better weight distribution and higher antenna height for Line of Sight communications. Soldiers also like that radio batteries can be replaced while the radio is mounted in the frame; current fielded rucksacks require Soldiers to remove the radio from the carrier to replace batteries. The Army plans to start production of the rucksacks by the end of 2015.
The Army also refined the full mission weight and battery life requirements for the Manpack Radio. The current full mission weight of the Manpack Radio is 19.33 pounds, which includes the radio with two batteries that can last twelve hours and supporting gear (two hand-held mikes, antennas, a GPS antenna and the battery bucket). The new full mission weight requirement, which is reflected in the RFP, is 16 pounds with an eight-hour battery life and amplification necessary to meet the current dismounted range requirements. It is up to the vendor to determine how many batteries are needed to support the eight-hour battery life requirement, but it must be within the weight requirement.