A JTRS success?

A joint Air Force and Navy program to design, develop and field up to 12,000 airborne and shipboard Joint Tactical Radio System (JTRS) radios passed a crucial system design review milestone last week.

The Airborne, Maritime and Fixed Station (AMF) program office at the Air Force Electronic Systems Center at Hanscom Air Force Base, Mass., said in a statement that Boeing and Lockheed Martin passed a pre-system development and demonstration contract system design review, setting the stage for a preliminary design review this August.

The AMF program office said the completion of this system design review means that the project is on schedule and under budget.

Boeing and Lockheed Martin won AMF pre-system development contracts valued at more than $50 million each last September. The program office said it expects to have an approved system design by the end of this year, and it will then conduct a competition between the two companies for a system development and demonstration contract.

Navy Capt. Matt Kercher, deputy AMF program manager, said in a statement that both Boeing and Lockheed Martin “have developed innovative solutions that appear to meet joint service requirements.” “We have seen some exciting product development over the past six months and look forward to seeing more as the system matures,” Kercher added.

This early success in development of AMF JTRS systems stands in stark contrast to other projects under the JTRS umbrella, a program conceived in the late 1990s to replace hundreds of Defense Department radios with a small family of software-designed ones capable of operating across a wide swath of the radio frequency spectrum and supporting voiced, narrow- and wide-band data communications.

Total JTRS system costs have now climbed to more than $32 billion, and no radios have been produced yet. In April, DOD issued a “show cause” letter, which could lead to Boeing's contract being canceled. The company is developing JTRS radios for Army and Marine vehicles, Army helicopters and Air Force tactical aircraft control party platoons. Last month, Boeing said it wants to work with the Pentagon to develop a realistic plan for this troubled project.

The Army issued a partial stop work order last month to General Dynamics on development of the JTRS manpack radio, due in part to Boeing's development of its air and ground JTRS radios.

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