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Army opens Manpack and Rifleman Radio competitions

by Mike Hoffman on October 22, 2012

Army leaders announced Monday they will open the Rifleman and Manpack Radio competitions Monday with the defense industry eager to tackle a contract that could yield a multi-billion dollar purse as the Army looks to reinvigorate their aging communications architecture.

The Army has listed its Network and communications systems as the service’s top modernization priority. The Pentagon canceled the Joint Tactical Radio System. Army officials, however, look to salvage the Rifleman and Manpack Radio systems that fell under JTRS.

General Dynamics has received an order from the Army for 3,726 Manpacks. Army officials have ordered another 19,327 Rifleman Radios splitting the order between General Dynamics and Thales.

Despite the orders, the Army chose to open the competition to bidders. Army leaders said on the floor at the Association of the U.S. Army that they have not lost faith in either General Dynamics or Thales to build the radios, but its in the best interests of the Army to review as many offers as possible.

Heidi Shyu, the Army’s acquisition chief, has made clear her desire to instill as much competition as possible in order to save money.

The Manpacks have also already run into problems in testing at the White Sands Missile Range where the Army holds the Network Integration Evaluation. Independent Pentagon testers found the Manpacks didn’t hold up in simulated combat conditions. General Dynamics contends the conditions were too extreme with the multitude of radios in the desert causing problems with all radios in the area.

A host of companies are expected to bid to build the two radio systems to include BAE Systems, Harris as well as General Dynamic and Thales. With so few defense contracts up for bid, this one will draw a considerable amount of attention.

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