Services still considering JTRS merger

After a meeting last week, top acquisition officials for the Navy and Air Force decided to talk further about possibly combining their services' portions of the Joint Tactical Radio System (JTRS), an Air Force official with knowledge of the meeting said today.

But John Young, assistant secretary of the Navy for research, development and acquisition, and Marvin Sambur, assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition, plan to further discuss the technological problems of merging JTRS Cluster 3, the maritime and fixed radio, and JTRS Cluster 4, the airborne radio, the Air Force official said.

Defense Department officials plan to use JTRS as the military's future radio, operating across the spectrum. The two services may combine their system portions because of acquisition and affordability issues, said Ken Kato, speaking last week at the 2003 Vision Conference of the Government Electronics and IT 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. Young and Sambur met Oct. 30 to discuss combining JTRS efforts.

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 the two hardware suppliers for the Army's JTRS Cluster 1 program.

DOD 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. Boeing officials originally said they would deliver the first JTRS radio in August 2004, but service and industry officials now expect the delivery in December of next year.

The Army Oct. 31 deferred comment on the JTRS consolidation meeting to the Air Force and the Navy.

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