The Army has launched a competition to procure Rifleman Radios. Opened on Jan. 5, the request for proposals will move the Army closer to Full Rate Production for the radio, which is part of the Handheld, Manpack and Small-form Fit (HMS) program.

According to an article at army.mil, the Army plans to award contracts and receive the first radios under them during fiscal 2015. FRP is slated to begin in fiscal 2017.

Complete Radio Coverage: A Revolution in Tactical Radios

The full and open competition will result in contracts for multiple vendors, creating a "radio marketplace," according to the Army. Winning vendors will then compete for individual delivery orders.

"The full and open competition gives all vendors the opportunity to participate as we work together to deliver the most technologically-advanced and user-friendly radios for Soldiers," said COL James Ross, project manager for tactical radios, quoted in the article. "Our goal is to field radios that not only consistently improve their capabilities, but also get simpler for soldiers to operate."

The IDIQ contract will have a five-year base ordering period with an optional five-year extension.

Vendors who don't make the first cut will have a second chance; the program includes "on-ramp opportunities for vendors whose technologies mature after the initial competition and operational tests," the Army said. "With each new generation, the Army plans to procure radios with better capabilities, including faster processors, increased power and battery life and decreased weight."

The Army said that in response to feedback from industry day events, it had added additional requirements, including a prospective two-channel hand-held Rifleman Radio that it may later choose to acquire. "By using the Single Channel Ground and Airborne Radio System (SINCGARS) waveform and the Soldier Radio Waveform, the Rifleman Radio will enable communication on both channels simultaneously," said the Army. "The range, however, will not be as strong as its sister radio, the Manpack."

However, "as an objective requirement, vendors do not have to provide a two-channel hand-held Rifleman Radio to get a contract," said HMS product manager LTC Rayfus Gary. "We look forward to seeing what vendors have to offer in both single-channel and two-channel solutions."

The Army has already purchased 21,379 Rifleman radios under low-rate initial production (LRIP). The radio, fielded as part of the integrated Capability Set 13 network package, is being used in dismounted operations in Afghanistan. Additional brigade combat teams will receive them under Capability Set 14.