First phase of JTRS on schedule

Boeing Co. and the Army plan to start the early operational assessment phase of the Joint Tactical Radio System by December, Boeing's program manger said today.

Should the project proceed as planned, the Army could end up buying $20 billion worth of radios over 25 years.

Giving a status report on the two-year old JTRS Cluster 1 project, Boeing's Ralph Moslener said the company and its partners are on schedule to deliver limited-production radios to the Army, starting next year.

'We've built 500 circuit cards and started integrating software and hardware six months early,' Moslener said. He called the Cluster 1 team 'trailblazers' who will hand down lessons learned to the other cluster teams.

The JTRS program is one of the foundations of the Defense Department's evolution toward network-centric operations. The radios will be designed to support multiple waveforms, so joint forces can communicate using a single, upgradeable device.

Because of the size of the JTRS program, it is being rolled out in clusters. Chicago-based Boeing won the contract to deploy Cluster 1 in June 2002. By the time the contract expires in 2006, Moslener said is could be worth approximately $1 billion, if all options are exercised.

The JTRS cluster 1 contract covers planning, design and low-rate initial production. Boeing tapped partners BAE Systems North America Inc., Rockville, Md., and Rockwell-Collins Inc., Cedar Rapids, Iowa, to build the radios.

Lt. Col. David Lockhart, Army product manager, said the Army would award separate contracts for full-rate production of Cluster 1 radios in 2007. Because of budgetary constraints, there likely will be several production contracts stretching out as far as 2032.

The Army could spend as much as $20 billion on Cluster 1 radios, Lockhart said.

Competition for the first production contract, which will is expected to span 2007 to 2012, may be limited to BAE Systems and Rockwell-Collins, Lockhart said.

Lockhart, who leaves his product manager post today, was quick to point out that December's early operation assessment does not constitute a test of the JTRS radios.

'It is an assessment of where we are at that point in time and where we need to go,' he said. Actual testing by various elements of the Defense Department will take place in 2005 and 2006.

Lt. Col. William Mason will assume the duties of product manager for JTRS Cluster 1.

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