The competition to supply U.S. soldiers with small, software-defined radios as part of a full-rate production contract with the Army was already pretty fierce. But now Harris Corp. has entered the fray with the Falcon III Multi-Channel Manpack, which debuted this week at the Association of the United States Army convention in Washington, D.C.
On Tuesday, Bill Beamish, director of Falcon III Manpack Products at the Harris Corporation, spoke with C4ISR & Networks about his company’s new radio. Beamish contends that it outclasses rivals for the Joint Tactical Radio System Handheld, Manpack, Small Form Fit contract, including the PRC-155 currently being fielded to soldiers in limited numbers.
“It’s 30 percent smaller than other [manpack] radios,” Beamish said of the new Falcon III, adding that it’s also more powerful. In the L band, for example, the radio has twice the output of rivals, he said. Finally, the Harris manpack is designed for efficiency.
“We created a single power amplifier that was capable of doing Satcom, line-of-sight, and wideband operations,” Beamish said.
As its name suggests, the Multi-Channel Manpack can run two waveforms at the same time. For example, the operator can use SINCGARS on one channel to talk to legacy radios and the Integrated Waveform on another channel for satellite communications. In addition, there is space for a third option module that can accommodate ISR receivers, like the Remotely Operated Video Enhanced Receiver.
The radio is designed for the Mobile User Objective System waveform — all it requires is a software update.
The new Harris manpack’s development began “really in earnest” a year and a half ago, Beamish said, partly in response to the Army competition. But there was also feedback from customers driving the move. Users of the Harris PRC-117G and PRC-114 radios wanted a “crossbanding” capability in one tightly integrated set, as opposed to putting two boxes next to each other.
Developing the new radio was not without its share of engineering challenges. Besides the miniaturization, there was a heat dissipation issue. Still, having drawn lessons from the experience with the earlier PRC-117G, Beamish is confident that the Falcon III Multi-Channel Manpack will impress.
“We expect it will be fully ready, fully compliant when we go to the qualification test for the HMS Manpack competition” in the winter, he said.