Harris Corp. [HRS] has introduced a new advanced two-channel handheld radio, based on one the company already builds for Special Operations Command, that simultaneously delivers voice and data networking to the Army.
The AN/PRC-163 radio is lightweight, rugged and features a flexible software-defined architecture – enabling users to quickly add new waveforms and applications from the battlefield. It is a somewhat watered-down version of SOCOM’s radio, which has a higher data rate and a signal intelligence capability that conventional troops don’t currently need, Dana Mehnert, senior vice president and chief of global business development for Harris, told sister publication Defense Daily in an interview.
Harris’ Army radio is based on the company’s AN/PRC-163 radio for the U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM). It features SWAP-C optimization that meets multiple mission needs, while reducing the need for warfighters to carry several pieces of equipment, and has a mission module expansion slot for future capabilities.
“Our mission module capability gives you a high data rate in a variety of different datalink formats that might be something the Army wants in the future but isn’t something that they saw in their core requirement,” Mehnert said. “There’s also a signals intelligence capability that’s in SOCOM’s radio that the army at least initially didn’t envision the need for so those would be some of the major improvements.”
The new radio’s superior crossbanding technology allows users to send information up and down the chain of command, as well as across the battlefield network backbone, while connecting to computing devices, including Android™ smartphones. It can simultaneously transmit information through combinations of legacy SATCOM, VHF/UHF line-of-sight and Mobile Ad-Hoc Networking applications – and future applications as they become available.
“It takes all the requirements and puts them together in a very wide range of capabilities for a two-channel radio that also has a small mission module that provides additional capability,” Mehnert said. “The radio we’re offering for the leader radio competition … is really optimized to the requirements that the army laid out so they don’t their mission need all of the capability that the SOCOM radio has but they can select the capability they need today and have the flexibility to add some of those additional capabilities in the future.”
The Army is in the midst of reviewing its overall network strategy, including the radios and waveforms that feed into it. That effort is being led by a network cross-functional team headed by Maj. Gen. Peter Gallagher, who is working closely with Maj. Gen. David Bassett, program executive officer for command, control, communications-tactical (PEO C3T).
Mehnert said Harris has been encouraged by meetings with the generals and the cross functional team (CFT) personnel that the Army is on track to modernize its network after years of misses.
“We’ve been very encouraged by the meetings we’ve had with General Gallagher with General Bassett individually and together they seem to be very well aligned about how they’re going to work together and really looking for the CFT to quickly infuse technology that can be brought in to some of the programs of record,” Mehnert said. “I think they’re really right on the cusp of being able to field dramatic improvement in capability with where they are on the HMS manpack and rifleman radio programs that they’ve got to move on with those.”