Army adding to its supply of Manpack radios
- By Kevin McCaney
- Jun 23, 2014
The Army is taking delivery of a new batch of two-channel, software-defined AN/PRC-155 Manpack radios designed to let soldiers in the field connect to the Army’s network backbone.
General Dynamics C4 Systems and Rockwell Collins are delivering the first of 1,500 radios ordered in January under a Low-Rate Initial Production contract, General Dynamics said in a release. The last of the radios is to be delivered by November, at which time the Army will have 5,300 PRC-155 Manpacks.
Manpack radios are an key piece of the Army’s interconnected battlefield environment. Able to fit in a backpack, as well as to be mounted on a vehicle, they allow soldiers carrying Rifleman Radios and Nett Warrior smartphones to connect to the battlefield network via the Soldier Radio Waveform and the Single Channel Ground and Airborne Radio System, SINCGARS waveforms.
The Army first contracted with General Dynamics in 2011 for 100 of the radios, and got the green light in October 2012 for 3,726 more. The radios being delivered now are part of a follow-on to that 2012 order.
The radios have been tested and improved through the Army’s series of Network Integration Evaluation (NIE) exercises, and have been field to Combat Battalion Teams of the 101st Airborne Division, the Army has said. Fielding is underway at several other divisions as well.
The Army uses NIE exercises to test its battlefield network—the Warfighter Information Network-Tactical—and equipment such as the Manpack radio, in part to make sure its most commonly used features are readily available. At the recent NIE 14.2 at Forst Bliss, Texas, for example, the Army planned to test the Manpack radios on foot in rough terrain while using Google Earth to scout locations.
General Dynamics and three other companies—Exelis, Harris and Thales Defense & Security—recently were awarded a competitive contract for Soldier Radio Waveform Appliqué systems, single-channel radios that will be installed on vehicles where two-channel Manpack systems aren’t required.
Kevin McCaney is a former editor of Defense Systems and GCN.