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Manpack and Leader enter full-rate production

4th October 2021 - 16:00 GMT | by Tim Fish in Auckland

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Leader Radio replaced the earlier Rifleman Radio acquisition after the Army decided on a two-channel solution. (Photo: L3Harris)

Following a long process of development, acquisition and trials the US Army is proceeding with full-rate production of its new two-channel software-defined radios that will fully integrate frontline units into the Integrated Tactical Network.

The US Army has awarded Full Rate Production (FRP) contracts for its Manpack and Leader Radio tactical data radios.

The Program Executive Office (PEO) C3T, which is managing the procurement effort, announced that the FRP award follows two years of operational experimentation with the 1st Brigade Combat Team of the 82nd Airborne Division.

This culminated in an Initial Operational Test and Evaluation (IOT&E) at Fort Bragg in January 2021 that helped to confirm a decision to proceed with the FRP decision, which was announced on 24 September.

The Manpack radio contract is a firm-fixed-price (FFP) delivery order worth a total of $226.5 million for L3Harris and Collins Aerospace. The former is providing 2,320 AN/PRC-158 radios and the latter is set to provide 1,547 AN/PRC-162 units. A total of 65,000 Manpack radios are expected overall.

The Leader radio contract is also an FFP delivery order worth a total of $118.7 million to L3Harris and Thales. L3Harris is providing 2,498 Falcon IV AN/PRC-163 radios with Thales to provide 1,096 AN/PRC-148D Improved Multiband Inter/Intra Team Radio (IMBITR) radios. About 100,000 Leader radios are expected overall.

These sets will be delivered to Infantry Brigade Combat Teams in the 25th Division, 2nd Cavalry Regiment Stryker Brigade Combat Team (BCT).

A spokesperson from PEO C3T stated that the Manpack and Leader radios have already been fielded as part of the Capability Set 21 (CS21) deliveries during the earlier LRIP phase. It was during these earlier phases last year that Shephard reported on hardware and networking concerns as a part of user feedback that were identified.

The spokesperson said that the IOT&E phase also helped identify areas for improvement and the programme office is ‘working to improve radio training by reviewing Soldier training packages for ease of understanding and to ensure better troubleshooting, engaging vendors in hardware and software improvements and aligning technical improvements with ongoing Integrated Tactical Network (ITN).’

The spokesperson added: ‘A total of four brigade combat teams have received radios, additionally radios are also in use by the Army’s Security Force Assistance Brigades. Most recent, radios were fielded and used by the 3rd Infantry BCT, 25th Infantry Division during [a] brigade training exercise in the INDO-PACOM theatre,’ the spokesperson said.

These previous brigades were the 1st BCT and 3rd BCT, 82nd Airborne Division; and 173rd Airborne Brigade.

The wider distribution of the radios is an essential part of the ITN, because they introduce a ground mesh network capability using integrated 4G cellular networks into existing military communications systems for dismounted combat units.

In particular, the Manpack radio provides a BLoS capability using the Mobile Objective User System tactical SATCOM constellation, allowing voice calls to be made globally.

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