Contractors go toe-to-toe over mobile radio business

Boeing defends JTRS GMR work, while Harris demonstrates its own capabilities

As the Joint Tactical Radio System’s Ground Mobile Radio moves ever closer to being put in the hands of Defense Department testers, Harris Corp. is demonstrating that many of the capabilities sought from GMR are available today with its Falcon III AN/PRC-117G radio. Boeing Co.’s GMR project team, however, is strongly defending GMR’s role.

The 117G already is being acquired by the U.S, military, including the Air Force’s Special Operations Command. It’s been certified by the National Security Agency for Type-1 information security. The GMR radio, the program-of-record radio for the JTRS program for the ground domain, is now entering the testing phase of its development, and is expected to enter limited user testing sometime next year, according to Boeing officials.

But Boeing’s GMR program manager pointed out in a press briefing at the Association of the U.S. Army Annual Meeting in early October that its radio system exceeded the capabilities of the 117G. “The [Boeing GMR] was the only radio to meet all of the requirements of the JTRS GMR program. No alternative system meets all the GMR requirements,” said Boeing’s Ralph Moslener, program director for Boeing’s JTRS GMR team, which includes Northrop Grumman, Rockwell Collins and BAE Systems. The team had to meet more than 37,000 individual requirements from the Joint Program Executive Office JTRS’ GMR program, he said.

Meanwhile, on the expo floor at the AUSA conference, Harris product managers and engineers demonstrated the 117G running a fully routed, digital broadband network, using Harris’ own Advanced Networking Wideband Waveform (ANW2) on one segment, and early releases of the JTRS Wideband Networking Waveform and Soldier Radio Waveform, bridging the two together with a router connected to two 117G radios. As part of the demonstration, Harris linked handheld and laptop computers running the Tactical Ground Reporting System , traditional push-to-talk communications circuits, a voice over IP telephone network, video and other situational awareness data across radios configured with both ANW2 and JTRS waveforms.

Harris also demonstrated that the 117G could be connected via a mobile satellite antenna to Inmarsat’s Broadband Global Area Network (BGAN) in places where line-of-site communications didn’t work, even though the BGAN connectivity itself could not be demonstrated from inside the Washington Convention Center. The configuration demonstrated by Harris allowed the 117G to fail over to satellite communications when it could not establish a terrestrial radio network connection.

Boeing ranks No. 2 on Washington Technology's 2009 Top 100 list of the largest federal government prime contractors. Harris ranks No. 13 on the list.

About the Author

Sean Gallagher is senior contributing editor for Defense Systems.

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