Military: JTRS not about the box

The Air Force and Navy want improved data-sharing and voice capabilities from the Joint Tactical Radio System.

Air Force and Navy officials want a software radio that gives improved voice and data-sharing capabilities so they can better carry out the military's emerging network-centric warfare doctrine.

The services do not want the Joint Tactical Radio System's airborne and maritime/fixed station (AMF) radio to simply let airmen and sailors use one device to speak and send data on frequencies from 2 MHz to 2 GHZ, said Air Force Lt. Col. Maryann Watson, AMF JTRS program manager, speaking Feb. 25 at the Software Radio Conference.

"We're not doing this for radios," Watson said. "We're doing this for capability. We don't want a new box." The Institute for Defense and Government Advancement, a military education group, sponsored the conference, held Feb. 24-25 in Alexandria, Va.

The Air Force, Navy and Army must buy 13,000 new radios for 75 aircraft, 50 ships and 20 fixed stations. Officials want industry to design the AMF radios with similar form, fit and functions, Watson said. But they do not want to constrain companies during the 65-month program. They want vendors to keep the same framework for the radios, but they can provide different casings and accessories, she said.

DOD officials want to build radios defined more by software than hardware so they can be more easily updated for new frequencies or functions.

In November 2003, Navy and Air Force officials decided to combine their JTRS programs -- called Clusters 3 and 4, respectively -- because of their similar size and capabilities. The decision also strengthens the Defense Department's efforts to get the services to work together more closely on acquisitions and warfighting. The two services further follow this philosophy by taking turns managing the AMF radio program.

The Air Force requested proposals from industry earlier this month, with a due date of March 22. The service plans to award two design contracts by June, and then Air Force and Navy officials will decide between the two vendors by May 2005, Watson said.

Industry officials from Boeing Co., Lockheed Martin Corp. and Northrop Grumman Corp. negotiated with radio specialty vendors at the conference to join their teams. Representatives of the military's JTRS Joint Program Office, which oversees the multibillion-dollar program, meet today with industry officials.

The AMF radio represents one of four JTRS devices in development. The Army also wants one for vehicles and aircraft and another that soldiers can wear, and the Special Operations Command wants one for elite Army, Navy and Air Force troops.

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