Harris [HRS] has received a $75 million order from the Marine Corps to upgrade the force’s Falcon III manpack radios with the Mobile User Objective System (MUOS) satellite communication capability, the company said Monday.

With the task order, the Marines will become the first service to widely deploy MUOS, the next-generation narrowband SATCOM capability, across its radios.

Artist’s rendering of a Navy Mobile User Objective System (MUOS) satellite.
(Photo: Lockheed Martin)

“Adding this capability to the [Falcon III] AN/PRC-117G will enable the Marines to leverage the proven radios they have already deployed, fought and trained with to access the advanced capabilities and capacity of the MUOS satellites with a simple software upgrade,” Dana Mehnert, president of Harris’ Communication Systems, said in a statement. “The MUOS upgrade also will enable interoperability with other U.S. DoD and allied users who deploy this advanced capability in the future.”

MUOS is intended to provide Marines with greater access to voice and data links. The SATCOM capability adapts commercial cell phone technology connected with new Lockheed Martin [LMT]-built ultra high frequency satellites to allow for improved mobility and operational survivability with the manpack radios.

“The most obvious to the operating forces will be the increased accessibility. This will allow us to explore new operating concepts by pushing on-the-move voice and data connectivity to the squad level,” Capt. Shawn Avery, a MUOS project officer for Marine Corps Systems Command, said in an earlier statement from June 2018 (Defense Daily, June 2018).

Harris officials noted the company built its software-defined Falcon III radios with the intention of accepting advanced waveforms, such as MUOS.

“As a software defined radio, the AN/PRC-117G was developed to be easily upgradable with new waveforms such as MUOS, enabling customers to increase capabilities economically,” company officials wrote in a statement.

Ross Niebergall, Harris’ chief technology officer, told Defense Daily last week the company is prioritizing software-defined projects and is pushing for DoD software acquisition reforms within the next five years (Defense Daily, Jan. 9).

The latest order, officially awarded on Dec. 10, was placed under the five-year Navy Portable Radio program Harris joined in 2017.

The upgrades will be installed on all Falcon III radios that were fielded on or before Dec. 10.