Troubled joint radio program has many positives, JPEO says

The Joint Tactical Radio System (JTRS) program has been the subject of many rumors over the past few months, with most predicting a shutdown of the project. Before a standing-room-only crowd at AFCEA West 2012 Jan. 25, the joint program executive officer for JTRS expressed optimism for many aspects of the troubled program.

Army Brig. Gen. Michael Williamson stressed the positives as he discussed the outlook for the troubled radio program. One is that JTRS will bring order to a chaotic area where incompatibility is common.

More from AFCEA West 2012

“I don’t want to create the wild, wild west again. I don’t want to see an environment where we have a bunch of one offs and spend a lot of time on interconnections,” Williamson said. “Any fight we’re involved in today will involve a coalition, so we need to set the hooks for operating within a coalition.”

The future of the JTRS radios has been in doubt since the Army terminated its future combat systems program, which included a request for 80,000 radios. That fell to 10,900, triggering a review of the project.

That review will focus on size, weight and cost, Williamson said. A new program based on the experience will leverage everything learned over the past few years, Williamson said.

However, Williamson stressed that the program needs to emerge from development to production. “We need to make decisions about procurement, not to continue development,” he said.

He also said that 80 Multifunction Informational Distribution System radios have been fielded. That has been effective, so the program should move into production. “I’m confident it will move forward soon,” Williamson said.

The Army’s Rifleman Radio is also moving forward. Army Rangers took “a couple hundred” radios into the field, giving it a real world test in combat. Engineers are now looking at their feedback and determining how that input can be incorporated into successive designs.

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