Danger Room: Army Doubles Down on ‘Garbled, Ineffective’ Next-Gen Radios

30.08.12

Categorie: David Axe, Industry, Testing |
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A soldier checks his radio headset in Iraq in 2009. Photo: Army

A soldier checks his radio headset in Iraq in 2009. Photo: Army

by DAVID AXE

In key moments during the U.S. Army’s latest war game for advanced communications gear, the troops’ high-tech new radios failed them.

The setting was the semi-annual Network Integration Exercise in New Mexico in May and June. The radio in question: the General Dynamics Manpack, a backpack-portable version of the Pentagon’s ambitious Joint Tactical Radio System. Voice traffic from the Manpacks was “garbled” and “unintelligible,” according to Michael Gilmore, the Pentagon’s chief weapons tester. In a memo dated July 20, Gilmore declared the Manpack “not operationally effective.” In other words, it didn’t work in mock combat — and it probably won’t work in real combat, either.

But the scathing review hasn’t stopped the Army from doubling down on the meager remnants of the once-mighty JTRS initiative, which aimed to equip the entire U.S. military with hundreds of thousands of cheap, high-tech radios whose smart processors would switch waveforms in an instant, making them the radio equivalent of Star Trek‘s universal translator. Just over a week ago the Army dropped $54 million on 13,000 copies of General Dynamics’ similar Rifleman radio, banking on engineers to work out any bugs like those identified in the Manpack in New Mexico.

Read the rest at Danger Room.

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