Tactical radios are one of the quiet lifelines of the battlefield. They can also be be a very quiet pain in the nether regions. After-action reviews by US troops in Iraq have cited lack of compatibility among available communications systems, creating pressure to modernize. Yet the Joint Tactical Radio System (JTRS) program that was intended to ensure this modernization has been plagued by inflated requirements, system delays, cost issues, and restructuring. What to do?
Fortunately, industry is providing interim answers that offer a bridge from the previous SINCGARS systems to the next-generation JTRS. Thales Communications’ AN/PRC-148 MBITR hand-held is the hand-held radio for USSOCOM, the most widely fielded multi-band portable radio in the US armed services, and is in use by many NATO Special Forces thanks to its small size, software-based structure, and excellent interoperability. The PRC-148 JEM version is JTRS-certified, and a vehicle-mounted VRC-111 component is also available as one of the radio’s expansion options. A recently-purchased JEM version even adds initial JTRS compatibility and software-based upgradeability. Rival Harris Corp. has not been idle; its larger Falcon III PRC-152-C/ VRC-110 system sports similar software-based JTRS upgradeability and certifications, and has received orders of its own.
In response, the US military is moving to consolidate its tactical radio purchases across participating services, in order to reduce unit costs. These 2 firms will now compete for delivery orders under the Consolidated
Interim Single Channel Handheld Radio (CISCHR/ CSCHR) program – orders that could total nearly $10 billion by the time all is said and done.