MURMURINGS OVER CLUSTER 5 SELECTION
By Adam Baddaley, Deputy Editor, BATTLESPACE
A DoD truism is that awarding contracts late on a Friday allows the losing side or sides to calm down. (See BATTLESPACE FARNBOROUGH NEWS DAY 1, July 19th 2004)
Another truism is that an industry exhibition enables those it affects to vent/express their opinions with a degree of anonymity. These two factors were certainly evident in regards to the JTRS Cluster 5 contract, awarded the Friday before Farnborough. The decision to award the decision to a General Dynamics led team over Boeing’s NetForce 5 comprising ITT, Raytheon and Harris has inevitably drawn criticism as the winners will provide the second half to the future US Tactical Internet, along with Cluster 1.
An industry source commenting on the outcome said, “This decision shows that the Army has apparently abandoned its existing experience base for ground tactical radios. This is because the Cluster 5 decision effectively eliminates ITT, Harris and Raytheon from key Transformational programmes. The award also appears to dissolve the separation between integrators and suppliers. This means integrators like General Dynamics and BAE Systems could now dictate their own solutions for WIN-T, Land Warrior, Future Combat Systems and Future Force Warrior.”
The decision has considerable impact as the three ‘box makers’ in NetForce 5: ITT, Harris and Raytheon who at this stage have no volume JTRS production contracts for manportable system to fill their large production lines.
Nonetheless in the immediate future the companies each have continuing activities in this area. The Raytheon EPLRS MicroLite, enabled with VoIP, has been selected by General Dynamics as the communications system for Land Warrior-Stryker Interoperable; Harris are developing their new Falcon III SCA compliant hand held radio with the first units potentially being delivered in the early Summer 2005 and ITT have said that they intend to develop JTRS compliant products irrespective of the Cluster 5 decision, illustrated by products such as the Spearhead radio. ITT’s hardware radio business continues to show considerable potential with ATCS/SINCGARS continuing to receive foreign and domestic orders. Furthermore the Bowman VHF solution launched on the export market at Eurosatory, using the Bowman waveform, offers JTRS waveform interoperability to export customers at a fraction of the price of JTRS radios. This will be achieved virtue of the Bowman waveform’s inclusion in the JTeL endorsed list of JTRS waveforms coupled with the requirement by the US Army for the Bowman to be operated from JTRS Cluster 1 and many Cluster 5 radios.
Things could also change with the possibilities brought about by the maturity of the Cluster 1 programme. The Army also has the opportunity at the end of the Cluster 1 LRIP phases due in 2007 to re-compete Full Rate production, providing former Team Futara members the possibility of bidding to produce over 90,000 new radios.