JTRS CLUSTER OVERVIEW
By Scott R. Gourley
It’s been a busy year for the Joint Tactical Radio System (JTRS) program. Although a pending contract award protest has temporarily slowed work on one of the radio “clusters,” the last year has seen: positive assessment of the overall program the U.S. General Accountability Office; significant progress in the ongoing “Cluster 1” effort; the award of the long-awaited “Cluster 5” package; and, most recently, the award of the so-called “AMF Cluster.”
Approximately one year ago, on 11 August 2003, the United States General Accounting Office – now General Accountability Office – (GAO) released a review of the JTRS program as of that date. Prepared for the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Appropriations, Subcommittee on Defense, the report was titled “Challenges and Risks Associated with the Joint Tactical Radio System Program.”
“The recent emergence of software-defined radio technology offers the potential to address key communications shortfalls and significantly improve military capabilities,” it read. “The Joint Tactical Radio System (JTRS) program was initiated in 1997 to develop and apply this technology and to bring together separate service-led programs into a joint software-defined radio development effort. JTRS radios are intended to interoperate with existing radio systems and provide the war fighter with additional communications capability to access maps and other visual data, communicate via voice and video with other units and levels of command, and obtain information directly from battlefield sensors. As such, the JTRS program is considered a major transformational effort for the military and is expected to enable information superiority, network-centric warfare as well as modernization efforts, such as the Army’s Future Combat Systems…”
At the request of the Congressional report sponsors, the GAO investigators had reviewed the program during 2003 “to determine if there are either management or technical challenges and risks that could jeopardize a successful program outcome.”
Although noting what they termed to be “several managerial and technological challenges” for the overall program, the investigators also found “that the JTRS Program has made considerable progress to date in planning and developing key aspects of the JTRS radios. At a fundamental level, a Joint Program Office has been established to bring together the services’ individual efforts to develop software-defined radios. The program office was instrumental in developing a standard software communications architecture that provides a foundation for building JTRS radios and evolving an open systems approach to facilitate technology insertion. The program office has reduced risk by employing an evolutionary acquisition strategy, whereby improved communications capabilities will be delivered in increments.”
As previously described in the pages, the JTRS acquisition strategy includes “Clusters,” which are radio development efforts that are organized around weapons platforms, such as ground vehicles and helicopters, as well as fixed-wing aircraft and maritime systems.
JTRS Cluster 1, for example, is managed by the Army’s Program Manager for Tactical Radio Communications systems (PM TRCS), part of the Program Executive Office, Command, Control and Communications-Tactical (PEO-C3T) at Fort Monmouth, New Jersey.
According to program planners, Cluster 1 is designed to provide the warfighter with a multi-channel software programmable, hardware-configurable digital radio networking system that will support requirements from the Army Aviation Rotary Wing, Air Force Tactical Control Party (TACP), and Army and USMC Ground Vehicular platforms.
Following a Milestone B program decision in June 2002, a contract for the System Development and Demonstration Phase of Cluster 1 was awarded to a Prime System Contractor, Boeing Space and Communications Unit, which select