WASHINGTON — The US Army has awarded a $20 million contract to General Dynamics, which subcontracted to Thales, for a vehicle-mounted Rifleman radio system that will connect soldiers operating in austere places using two channels, a service spokesman said.

Thales will provide 1,100 Vehicle Integrated Power Enhanced Rifleman (VIPER) radio systems, which will be fielded in January 2016 to brigade combat teams in the 82nd Airborne Division and the 101st Airborne Division, according to Paul Mehney, a spokesman for Program Executive Office Command, Control Communications-Tactical.

The radios will also support the Army's Network Integration Evaluations at Fort Bliss, Texas, and White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico, he said.

Viper combines a vehicle-mounted, single-channel ground and airborne radio system with a handheld Rifleman radio for dismounted soldiers with the Soldier Radio Waveform. It will give soldiers a second channel to transmit voice and data up and down the chain of command, and as well as link them to the Nett Warrior, a secure Android phone-type device.

The handheld Rifleman radio fits into the mounted radio kit and can quickly detach, which provides what Thales describes as a "jerk and run" capability, "enabling a quick transition between mounted and dismounted operations without losing communications."

Thales is manufacturing the Rifleman radio under the Joint Tactical Radio System Handheld, Manpack and Small Form Fit program, which is fully certified and deployed. Harris Corp.oration also has a contract with the Army to provide the lightweight, hand-held radios.

Jen Judson is the land warfare reporter for Defense News. She has covered defense in the Washington area for 10 years. She was previously a reporter at Politico and Inside Defense. She won the National Press Club's best analytical reporting award in 2014 and was named the Defense Media Awards' best young defense journalist in 2018.

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