Harris VP on the emerging tactical radio marketplace

In an exclusive interview with C4ISR & Networks at the Association of the U.S. Army annual meeting and expositionthis week’s AUSA EVENT, MBG (Ret.) Dennis Moran, vice president of Harris RF Communications, talked about the emerging radio marketplace and about Harris’s strategic purchase of aerospace, defense, information and services company Exelis for nearly $5 billion in May.

The conversation came on the heels of a big win by Harris. On Sept. 29 the company announced it had been awarded a single-source indefinite delivery, indefinite quantityIDIQ contract with a ceiling value of $390 million to supply specialized tactical radios to U.S. Special Operations Forces.

Moran said the company's readiness to provide the new radio comes in large part as a result of a developing global marketplace for such products, one that looks beyond the limited — albeit large — needs of the U.S. military. Were it to rely solely on the U.S. Army, the tactical radio marketplace "would never exist," he said. "This is a global market."

The emergence of that global marketplace is creating new competitive pressures, pushing vendors to either innovate or compete on price, he said. That scenario will likely become evident as the military pursues its interest in a Small Airborne Network Radio (SANR). As envisioned by military planners, SANR would make it possible to transmit ground soldier location information to cockpit maps. Soldiers would likewise be able to transmit target coordinates quickly for better air support.

Moran expressed satisfaction with a SANR procurement process that has been both transparent and iterative. The Army has circulated multiple requests for proposals, asking industry to help it develop realistic expectation of weight, waveform, battery life and other essentials. Moran said he expects another request for proposalsRFP to emerge within the next six months.

In addition to these specific technical points, leadership also is eager to see a product offering that interoperates effectively with coalition forces. After that, it’s all about money. "Affordability is a key topic," Moran said. Planners want to know:"Wwhat companiesyou are developing and whether it'sis it affordable.?"

Even as Harris pursues such emerging opportunities, the company is working on the nuts and bolts of its recent purchase of Exelis. In terms of product, Moran said, the companies' catalogs have been largely complementary, with little overlap and thus little need to shed redundant product.

The larger question, as is often the case, has to do with the "cultural" fit: The operational and strategic psyche of the organization. In that regard, Moran said, the gears have meshed nicely.

"The two cultures fit together pretty well already. We were both high-end engineering companies, and we were always in complementary spaces," he said.

In terms of specific product, the acquisition could open up the way for Harris to pursue such technologies as digital night-vision goggles, software systems to push out GPS-based data, and new "dark apps" — applications that can be viewed through goggles, but that do not give shed the kind of brightness that might give away a soldier's position.

Looking beyond military uses, such tools could have a place in police and fire rescue work as well. "That would fit nicely with our existing public-safety business," Moran said.

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