JTRS soldier contract may come soon

The Army could award a contract this month to one of two industry teams to build the handheld, backpack and wearable devices of the Joint Tactical Radio System.

A top Defense Department JTRS official said in January the contract would be awarded in April. However, industry officials say that it could come as early as mid-March.

JTRS devices are designed to replace the military's disparate radios with a unified standard that can be customized for each service. The military owns more than 750,000 radios of 25 makes and models, many of which are incompatible.

DOD officials hope the new systems will decrease those numbers and increase radio functionality by operating across the spectrum from 2 MHz to 2 GHz. JTRS radio abilities will be defined largely by software, which should make updates easier for new applications and allow radio casings to be used more than once.

ITT Industries Inc., located in Fort Wayne, N.J., and General Dynamics Corp., located in Falls Church, Va., submitted proposals for the JTRS handheld, backpack and soldier-system radios, called Cluster 5, said the industry officials. The Cluster 5 program will produce the first JTRS software-defined radio in the military by 2005, said Air Force Col. Steven MacLaird, director of the JTRS Joint Program Office, speaking in January at the Network Centric Warfare 2004 conference.

The military divided the JTRS program into four categories:

* Cluster 1: Army air and ground vehicles.

* Cluster 2: Special Operations Command systems.

* Cluster 5: Three Army devices.

* AMF: the Air Force and Navy airborne-maritime-fixed stations.

The Air Force and the Navy in November combined their JTRS programs, called Clusters 3 and 4. Military officials expect Cluster 1 and 2 radios to be ready in 2007 and AMF in 2009.

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