Troubled JTRS hits another roadblock

The Defense Department's Joint Tactical Radio Systems (JTRS) program has hit another roadblock as the Army issued a partial stop work order to General Dynamics on development of the JTRS manpack radio, due in part to delays in development of another set of JTRS radios by Boeing Cop., which faces a potential cancellation of its contract by DOD.

Combined, development costs for Boeing and General Dynamics JTRS radios have swelled to more than $32 billion.

A DOD acquisition report issued last month pegged Boeing's total JTRS program costs at $21.6 billion and General Dynamics' at $11 billion. The original combined program cost estimate was about $23 billion. That total includes research and development, acquisition, operation, and maintenance costs.

Army officials created the JTRS program in the late 1990s to develop a family of radios that would use software to communicate on a wide range of frequencies at different data rates. The DOD acquisition report states that the price tag of JTRS waveform development was $1.3 billion as of December 2004, up $339 million from the previous quarter.

General Dynamics spokesman Rob Doolittle said the company received a partial stop-work order last month on the JTRS Cluster 5, Spiral 1 manpack radio. The radio, which incorporates seven waveforms, was scheduled for delivery in 2007.

Doolittle said General Dynamics' design of the Spiral 1 manpack was slowed by Boeing's development delays and by late deliveries of waveforms coming from the JTRS Joint Program Office. He said Army officials have decided to halt development of the Spiral 1 manpack and will wait for delivery of the Spiral 2 manpack in 2011.

General Dynamics is also under contract to develop handheld and embedded system JTRS radios under its Cluster 5 contract, which is valued at $1 billion.

Steven Davis, a spokesman for the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command, said a new joint program executive office that manages JTRS is evaluating Boeing's Cluster 1 radios for use in Army and Marine Corps ground vehicles, Army helicopters, and by Air Force tactical air control teams.

Davis said the executive officer could recommend an overall restructuring of the JTRS program, including its acquisition strategy and funding.

Ron Murias, manager of applied research and development at Wi-Lan, said JTRS development costs are excessive. With $80 million, his company developed a commercial WiMax radio system that operates across multiple frequency bands at multiple data rates.

Facing cuts

The Army's Joint Tactical Radio System encountered more financial trouble last week when members of the Senate Armed Services Committee's Airland Subcommittee slashed $308.3 million from the service's fiscal 2006 budget because of concerns about the program's execution.

— Bob Brewin

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