CLUSTER 5 EXPANDS?
By Adam BADDELEY, Deputy Editor, BATTLESPACE
Jun 05. BATTLESPACE understands that there is change afoot in the Joint Tactical Radio Systems (JTRS) Cluster 5 team. Final negotiations are taking place to bring ITT into prime contractor General Dynamics C4 Systems’ team. The reason? Problems with the Spiral 1 manpack. The writer understands that ITT’s inclusion in the team may have been at the behest of or at least the encouragement of the DoD, who were concerned at the rate of progress for the Spiral 1 manpack.
There are certainly problems with Cluster 5. The DoD have acknowledged this by placing a partial stop order on the Spiral 1 manpack. Commenting on this decision Rob Doolittle, senior spokesman for General Dynamics was quoted as attributing this to a combination of repercussions from the Cluster 1 stop order issued to Boeing earlier this year and late delivery of waveforms to the JPO’s waveform library.
An ITT spokesman neither confirmed nor denied the suggestion that they were joining the Cluster 5 team. GDC4S mirrored this reticence, in a written statement saying, “an important aspect of our responsibility as the prime for Cluster 5 is to investigate various technology solutions, therefore we talk with a variety of vendors all the time. It would be inappropriate to comment on any specific discussions that may be underway, however.” Bringing ITT, the world’s largest radio manufacturer, into the fold will by necessity cause a re-jigging of the teaming arrangements. However GDC4S commented, “We [will] say we have no plans to replace any of the current Cluster JTRS set producer/developers.”
General Dynamic’s core team includes Thales Communications Inc., Rockwell Collins and BAE Systems. Technology for the programme is also being provided by Agile Communications, Altera, Datasoft, RedZone Robotics, Sarnoff Corporation, Tessera, Vanu, General Dynamics Robotic Systems and General Dynamics Advanced Information Systems. Speaking at the time of the award, Chris Brady, Director Assured Communication Systems, General Dynamics C4 Systems, said that provisional plans are for GD and Thales to produce the hand held radios with man pack radios to be produced by Rockwell Collins.
What General Dynamics did not mention as being among the reasons for the Spiral 1 partial stop order were technical problems with shoehorning roughly twice the capability into a ‘green box’ smaller and lighter than the current manpack capability leader, the Harris ANPRC-117F.
Joe Miller, Director of JTRS Programs at GDC4S, outlined the specifications for the Spiral 1 relative to the Harris radio. Speaking at the at IQPC’s Software Defined Radio event in December he explained that the Spiral 1 manpack will cover 2-870MHz rather than the 30-512MHz, adding the HF band and incorporating extra frequency bands to support the Soldier Radio Waveform and theAPCO25 (when it comes).
While the AN/PRC-117F will take ‘just’ Have Quick II, SINCGARS and 181/182/183 DAMA, the Spiral 1 is required to support VHF FM, Land Mobile radio and HF SSB with ALE. In addition the Spiral 1 will have the option of upgrading to the full 17 waveforms of the Spiral II including the Wideband Networking Waveform.
The critical difference however is that the Spiral 1 offers two channel operation – twice what existing manpacks currently achieve.
Cluster 5 is a frontline solution not a lab mock-up, and stringent limits have been put on its physical characteristics. The Harris radio weighs 16lbs, the Spiral 1 must be below 13lbs and take up just 400 cubic inches versus the 453 cubic inches for today’s PRC-117F. Within these size and weight requirement an embedded SAASM GPS must be used rather than the external PLGR used by the Harris radio.
Spiral 1 has had a difficult gestation. The original requirement for this Spiral was for a single channel hand held radio, which was subsequently dropped in early Summer 2004 mid way through the final competitive