October 12, 2005

Fate of US military radios put off until November

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A decision on whether to restructure
a huge program to develop advanced new military radios has been
put off until November after Pentagon officials met Tuesday to
review their options, a source familiar with the meeting said
on Wednesday.

"No decisions were made," said the source, who asked not to
be identified. "It was a quick progress review" of the troubled
Joint Tactical Radio System (JTRS) program, which is meant to
give the military a new networked communications backbone.

Boeing Co. officials last week remained guarded about the
future of their contract to develop the new software- defined
radios ahead of Tuesday's staff-level meeting of the Defense
Acquisition Board (DAB), a high-level Pentagon panel.

Boeing had no immediate comment on the meeting, saying
industry officials did not take part.

Dennis Bauman, named Joint Program Executive Officer for
JTRS in April, presented three restructuring options at the
meeting and the DAB officials asked him to gather more details
on the consequences of each option, the source said, without
elaborating on the details of those possible scenarios.

The overall restructuring is intended to ensure some new
software-based radios are delivered to troops, while adopting a
more incremental approach to boosting the capabilities of those
radios than initially planned, according to Loren Thompson at
the Virginia-based Lexington Institute.

Another DAB meeting was scheduled for November 21.

Bauman's spokesman Steven Davis had no immediate comment.

Pentagon spokeswoman Cheryl Irwin confirmed the staff-level
DAB meeting took place on Tuesday, but gave no details. She
said no major decisions had been expected at the meeting.

Boeing is prime contractor for Cluster 1, a program that
could be worth $15 billion over time, to develop software
versions of 23 existing radio waveforms and one new one, and
build radios for Army ground vehicles and helicopters.

The Pentagon in April told Boeing it could cancel that
cluster, although a restructuring now appears more likely,
given the importance of the new Wideband Networking Waveform
(WNW) that Boeing is developing to the overall JTRS program and
the Army's Future Combat Systems (FCS) program.

The other JTRS clusters call for development of smaller
handheld radios and others than can be put in a backpack,
radios for use onboard aircraft and ships, as well as a new
version of AN/PRC-148 Multiband Inter/Intra Team Radio (MBITR)
built by Thales.