The Army wants to spend more than $3 billion to buy new Handheld Manpack Radios over the next four years, according to budget documents released Feb. 10.
That’s about $450 million more than Army officials projected they would spend on the radios during the same time period in budget documents last year.
The radios are a key element to what the service calls the integrated tactical network, the concept behind the Army’s modernized battlefield network which will incrementally add capabilities units every two years beginning in 2021. The Army will invest in the 2-channel Leader radio, the Manpack radio and the Rifleman radio. L3Harris and Thales are the primary contractors for the Leader and Rifleman radios while Collins Aerospace and L3Harris are the primary contractors for the Manpack radios.
The radios are arguably the most visible piece as the Army revamps its battlefield network. That effort is expected to cost roughly $9.6 billion over the next five years.
For fiscal year 2021, Army leaders requested $550 million in procurement funds for the radios. That money will be used for Leader radios for five brigade combat teams, according to budget documents.
In addition, budget documents show the Army anticipates procurement spending of $687 million in fiscal year 2022, $836 million in 2023 and $989 million in 2024.
The Army said in the budget request that it plans to test two-channel technologies using the existing Manpack radios to demonstrate of air to ground communication. It also plans to evaluate a single-channel radio that runs an advanced networking waveform.
Meanwhile, the budget request outlines a series of other projects the Army wants to take to improve its battlefield network.
The Army wants to modernize command posts to make them more mobile and survivable in contested environments. The service plans to spend a total of $108.4 million for the Command Post Integrated Infrastructure in fiscal year 2021. On the procurement side, the program will conduct tests from prototypes to inform increment 1 purchasing decisions. The research and development part of that money calls for work on the program’s second increment, which include designing, developing and integrating network and platforms to support three command post variants: mobile command posts, command post support vehicles and mobile command group platforms.
In addition, Army leaders requested $122.4 million in fiscal 2021 for the Command Post Computing Environment, a web-enabled system that collapses several command post functions into a single user interface.
For another program that creates a common operational environment front, the Army is asking for $18.6 million in research and development for the Mounted Computing Environment, which will replace the Joint Battle Command-Platform in the future. Those funds will support the incorporation of new software and hardware to replace JBC-P and fund integration, system engineering, interfaces, new software implementations and initial test instrumentation and experimentation/developmental test events.
Mark Pomerleau is a reporter for C4ISRNET, covering information warfare and cyberspace.