As requirements go, so goes Army WIN-T

Cancellation of Future Combat Systems vehicle program puts end to the liquid-cooled radio

Now that the Army has canceled the manned ground vehicle segment of the Future Combat Systems program, the Warfighter Information Network-Tactical program will continue without the four-channel liquid-cooled radio that was being designed specifically to meet the size, weight and power requirements of the FCS vehicles.

In addition, as part of the FCS restructuring, the WIN-T communications systems in development will go to all 73 of the Army’s combat brigades rather than the originally planned 15 brigades. The requirements associated with the FCS vehicles don’t apply to existing vehicles.

“The liquid-cooled radio is a unique FCS configuration item, and it came off the table when the manned ground vehicles came off the table,” said Army Col. Chuck Hoppe, WIN-T's project manager. He added that the Army has sent a stop-work order to WIN-T prime contractor General Dynamics C4 Systems. “It wasn’t a separate development as much as a coincidental development with the air-cooled radio,” Hoppe said.

The WIN-T program will include only two joint command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance radio variants instead of three, and it will consist of a two-channel and four-channel JC4ISR air-cooled radio.

The guts of the liquid-cooled and air-cooled radios are nearly the same because they use the same electronic boards. The main difference is that installation in smaller and tighter compartments of the now-canceled FCS vehicles necessitated the use of liquid cooling. Heat and cooling won’t be a problem when the air-cooled radios are installed in existing Army vehicles, and the air-cooled WIN-T radios will mount in the same space and have the same thermal properties as the Single Channel Ground and Airborne Radio System radio.

“We’re leveraging a lot of common components, so I don’t see us throwing away a lot of engineering effort here,” Hoppe said, speaking of the canceled liquid-cooled radio.

The four-channel liquid-cooled radio also didn’t play a role in the air portion of the FCS program, which consists of the Fire Scout unmanned aerial vehicle. The two-channel air-cooled radio will be built into the Fire Scout and Extended-Range Multi-Purpose unmanned aerial vehicle, which will be a follow-on to the General Atomics Predator.

In addition to discussing the radios, Hoppe also provided an update on the WIN-T program, which includes waveform and communications-on-the-move technologies.

Under Increment One, the Army has procured about 70 percent of all Joint Network Node (JNN) systems, which gives combat brigades a quick-halt capability through which they can connect to the Global Information Grid within 30 minutes of stopping their vehicles. Hoppe said JNN will transition from a procurement program to a logistics, support and maintenance program.

The Army conducted a limited user test of Increment Two in March, and it is scheduled to go to a Milestone C low-rate initial production decision at the end of the fiscal year, followed by an low-rate initial production contract and initial operational test and evaluation in fiscal 2011.

Increment Three, under which all the WIN-T technology will be ready for use by all Army combat brigades, completed its preliminary design review in February. “We just baselined the program and are working toward critical design review in [fiscal 2012], and then we’ll start putting the hardware on,” Hoppe said.

About the Author

Barry Rosenberg is editor-in-chief of Defense Systems. Follow him on Twitter: @BarryDefense.

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