Air Force, Navy merge JTRS programs

Air Force and Navy officials announced they would combine their portions of the Joint Tactical Radio System (JTRS).

"Combining our program efforts will ensure that a truly joint radio system is efficiently developed for our aerospace and maritime forces," Marvin Sambur, assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition, said in a statement.

The two services established a joint management and oversight structure for merging JTRS Cluster 3, the maritime and fixed radio, and Cluster 4, the airborne radio. JTRS is the military's future radio that will operate across the spectrum.

"We can be certain that our warfighters will be able to easily communicate in the joint warfighting environment that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is creating," said John Young, assistant secretary of the Navy for research, development and acquisition.

Federal Computer Week first reported that Sambur and Young met Oct. 30 to discuss the merger. Air Force and Navy officials considered combining their JTRS portions because of acquisition and affordability issues, said Ken Kato, speaking Oct. 28 at the 2003 Vision Conference of the Government Electronics and Information Technology Association (GEIA). Kato led the Air Force's 2004-2014 budget forecast for GEIA, an industry lobby group located in Arlington, Va.

Air Force officials asked companies to submit proposals by Oct. 14 for the JTRS airborne's presystem development and demonstration phase. But the service put the acquisition on hold, said Kato, who works for Rockwell Collins Inc. The Navy and the Air Force could get the software-defined JTRS radios faster and save hundreds of millions of dollars if they merge their programs. The Air Force's JTRS cluster totals $2.1 billion, Kato said. Rockwell Collins, headquartered in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, is one of two hardware suppliers for the Army's JTRS Cluster 1 program.

The Defense Department in June 2001 awarded Boeing Co. a contract worth more than $2 billion to design the wideband networking waveform for the new radio system and oversee manufacturing of the Army's JTRS Cluster 1 vehicular and airborne radios. Company officials originally said they would deliver the first JTRS radio in August 2004, but service and industry officials now expect the delivery next December.

The military owns more than 750,000 radios of 25 makes and models. Defense officials hope JTRS will decrease those numbers and increase radio functionality.

JTRS devices will be defined largely by software, which allows for easier updates for new applications, and means the radio casings can be used more than once.

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