The u.s. Defense Acquisition Board (DAB) has delayed a production decision for the Joint Tactical Radio System’s HMS Manpack radio, which had recently been the subject of a highly critical report issued by the Pentagon’s director of operational test and evaluation (DOT&E).
According to a source with knowledge of the July 26 meeting, the DAB pushed the decision date back until September to allow the Army and General Dynamics time to make some critical fixes and conduct further evaluations.
Michael Gilmore, director of the DOT&E, wrote in his July 20 report that General Dynamics’ JTRS HMS Manpack radio “is not operationally effective” when running the Single Channel Ground Airborne Radio Systems (SINCGARS) waveform. Specifically, there are compatibility issues between SINCGARS and the Soldier Radio Waveform.
The Multi-service Operational Test and Evaluation took place during the May/June Network Integration Evaluation (NIE) event at the White Sands Missile Range, N.M., and Fort Bliss, Texas.
According to the memo, the radios running SINCGARS suffered from “poor, garbled, and unintelligible” voice quality and were able to transmit data “at less than half the range achieved by legacy SINCGARS radios.”
The failures of the radio were due to a software issue, and although General Dynamics and the Army were able to fix the problems during the NIE event, the source said the glitch “contributed to some of the range and communications issues that Gilmore identified in the report.”
General Dynamics conducted a series of follow-on tests once the NIE concluded that were done under the supervision of the Army Test and Evaluation command and staffers from Gilmore’s office. That information didn’t make it into the report, according to the official.
The JTRS HMS Manpack radio has long been considered a key component of the Army’s Capability Set program, which seeks to modernize tactical communications by allowing soldiers down to the squad level to push data up to battalion and above headquarters while on the move. Deployed units currently do not have that capability. The radio provides line-of-sight and beyond-line-of-sight high-bandwidth waveforms for dismounted soldiers or in vehicles.
General Dynamics has delivered 165 Manpack radios to the Army so far and is awaiting word on an award of up to 3,500 more should the DAB give the go-ahead.
The two-channel radios are not slated to be deployed to the first two brigade combat teams this October as part of the Army’s Capability Set 13 equipment package due to previous schedule slippages. Radios made by Harris will take their place in the first two brigades, with the General Dynamics radio currently scheduled to be shipped to the third brigade in June 2013.
Paul Mehney, spokesman for the Army modernization program, said that due to these issues, “we are now studying potential options while also looking at fielding schedules to ensure any option can meet the timeline established. Those assessments are currently underway.”
He added that “HMS is still a key and critical part of Capability Set 13.”