Northrop Grumman [NOC] said it is ready, if selected, to begin full-rate production of its Freedom 350 radio to satisfy the Army acquisition rate for the Mid-Tier Networking Vehiclular Radio( (MNVR).

The Army said earlier this year it plans to award a contract for the radios this month. Northrop Grumman is competing against Harris [HRS], General Dynamics [GD] BAE Systems, and Raytheon [RTN].

Photo: Army PM MNVR

The company said a recent successful series of tests, trials and demonstrations and an initial production run leaves the radio ready to go.

  Northrop Grumman also said recent demonstrations show that its MNVR solution, the Freedom 350, integrates efficiently into Army platforms for potential inclusion in Capability Set 14-15.

In addition, the Freedom 350 radio is less expensive, more capable, easy to use and designed with growth capability for anticipated waveform evolution, the company said.

The MNVR is to replaces the Joint Tactical Radio System Ground Mobile Radio (JTRS GMR), which was canceled in October 2011.

During numerous lab and field events–most recently at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., and Fort Huachuca, Ariz.–the Freedom radio demonstrated that it met or exceeded specifications, the company said.

In a separate test conducted in the Mojave Desert, the radio was mounted in an aircraft to take both soldier radio waveform (SRW) and wideband networking waveform (WNW) into the air.

The airborne radio bridged SRW and WNW while transmitting live video from both a cockpit and a wing camera to ground platforms. Simultaneously, precise spectrum management was demonstrated as a helmet-mounted camera sent dismounted soldier video via an SRW radio through the airborne Freedom 350 while man-pack electronic warfare equipment defeated triggers for improvised explosive devices.

"Northrop Grumman’s team is ready for full-rate production," said Mike Twyman, sector vice president and general manager of the Defense Systems division for Northrop Grumman Information Systems. "Our partnerships provide a strong and agile manufacturing network that leverages industrial capacity and delivers a low-risk, long-term solution to our customer."

In 2011, Northrop Grumman’s teamed with ITT Exelis, Fort Wayne, Ind., to compete on the program.

ITT Exelis manufactures the Army’s previous radio standard, the Single-Channel Ground and Airborne Radio System (SINCGARS), having delivered more than 500,000 units to date.

"This team has the ability to surge production quantities beyond the current MNVR requirements and a logistics support network already in place worldwide," Twyman said.

Northrop Grumman said its Freedom 350 MNVR offering is less expensive per channel than competing man-packable systems but is much more capable in terms of range and network processing power. Additional cost and time savings are achieved because the Freedom radio can be installed without modifying the platform–the Freedom 350 system fits "over" the existing SINCGARS radios and docks to the original power and control cables and intercom systems.

Freedom was designed with additional memory and processing power to accommodate the insertion of new waveforms, operational use at multiple levels of security, and growth to future architectures and networks. Recent field-programmable gate array upgrades have added further capability while driving production costs even lower.

"In field evaluation after field evaluation, soldiers told us the Freedom radio was easy to use,” Twyman said. “Feedback has been particularly positive about the intuitive icons used to control the radio, which work much like the icons on their smartphones and tablets. This intuitive approach eases use and reduces the need for training."