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Army Sets Date to Buy Mid-Tier Networking Vehicular Radios

Jul. 19, 2013 - 03:45AM   |  
By PAUL MCLEARY   |   Comments
BAE Systems submitted its Phoenix radio for the Army's Mid-Tier Networking Vehicular Radio competition.
BAE Systems submitted its Phoenix radio for the Army's Mid-Tier Networking Vehicular Radio competition. (BAE Systems)
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After a string of delays and false starts, the Army now says it intends to award a contract in September for more than 200 Mid-Tier Networking Vehicular Radios, which are a planned critical component for its network modernization and brigade combat team modernization strategies. The Army wouldn’t comment on why the award to a single contractor had been pushed back from the spring to the fall.

A contracting document released in July 2012 said the award should be worth about $140 million over two years, and the service estimates that it would eventually buy about 2,500 radio sets to equip its brigade combat teams.

An industry source has said some of the competitors have started to manufacture the radios in anticipation of the award, since deliveries are scheduled to begin in April, and it will take time to build enough of the complex, vehicle-mounted two-channel communications systems.

The MNVR, in many ways, will be a centerpiece for mounted and dismounted infantry operations, as it will serve as the bridge between battalion- and brigade-level communications and lower tactical network (company and platoon) communications as troops maneuver in their vehicles or on foot.

But due to delays in issuing an initial solicitation and in kicking off a testing and development schedule, the MNVR will not be delivered to the 2nd Brigade, 1st Armored Division, in time for this fall’s Network Integration Evaluation at White Sands Missile Range, N.M.

“Current plans are to use MNVR starting in NIE 14.2” next spring, Army spokesman Joshua Davidson said. That means the contractor who wins the award in September will have until April to get the radios to White Sands and have them installed in Army vehicles for the brigade-size assessment.

Since the MNVR isn’t ready, the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, which is headed to Afghanistan this summer with the full suite of networking technologies known as Capability Set 13, is deploying with the Harris-made AN/PRC-117Gs radio, which will be filling in for the MNVR.

The Army launched the program in November 2011 and the industry teams competing for the contract include General Dynamics, Harris, Raytheon, BAE Systems and ITT Exelis.

The MNVR is the planned replacement for the $2 billion flame-out of the JTRS Ground Mobile Radio, which was canceled in October 2011, after Boeing and the Army were unable to produce a radio that could fit within reasonable price parameters.

Given its centrality to the modernization program — the MNVR will be able to transmit streaming video, voice and critical intelligence data between small units in the field and their higher headquarters — industry has been jockeying for position and influence for several years to win the contract.

On July 3, Harris Corp. announced that it wrapped up government tests of its MNVR system using the Wideband Networking Waveform developed by the Defense Department. In a statement, the company said it was able to communicate at rates of 2 megabits per second between Harris MNVR systems, as well as with other systems, such as the Ground Mobile Radio.

BAE Systems, which has submitted its Phoenix MNVR to the competition, said in a statement that it has successfully demonstrated its WNW Anti-Jam mode for the Army at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J. The anti-jamming technology means the radios can be used while soldiers employ anti-improvised explosive device jammers in their armored vehicles.

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