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17 years later the Army is still stuck on rollout of new combat radio

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With more than 17 years in research, development, and testing, the Army plans to have its new software-defined radio system (Joint Tactical Radio System ) in the field, in just three more years.

While the private sector has gone from the portable “brick phones” of the 1980s to 21st century iPhones and Androids, the military announced today its proposed three-year-roll-out plan for Handheld, Man-Pack, and Small Form Factor (HMS) radio systems to the troops.

Without question, there is a marked difference between cellular phones and combat radios; but there is no doubt the Army is playing catch-up with its civilian cousins on both software and hardware technology with their new communications system.

Development plans for the JTRS got stuck in bureaucracy and the program was cancelled in October of 2011 and defunded in 2012. However, in January of this year, General Dynamics inked a contract for nearly $110 million to restart the program.

The Army stalled out on any mass purchase of the JTRS and HMS radios mainly because the systems they were supposed to connect to were never built.

ARS Technica writes:

During operations with the new radios, the Army discovered that it took weeks to prepare communications plans for a brigade network because of the complex setup and interfaces on multi-channel radios.

Earlier this month at Fort Bliss, the Army conducted its first "terrain walk-around" test of the AN/PRC-155 Manpack Radio, the General Dynamics backpack version of the proposed system.

Unless General Dynamics gets some inspiration from DARPA the Army's portable radios will be the "eight-track version"of communications by the time they get deployed.

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