FORT BENNING, Ga. — The Maneuver Battle Lab and U.S. Army Operational Test Command are closing out a three-week test of the new Rifleman Radio, making sure previous design improvements took hold in advance of an acquisition decision expected this summer.
Called a verification of correction of deficiencies, the endeavor involved 30 Soldiers from A Company, 1st Battalion, 29th Infantry Regiment — Fort Benning’s experimentation force. Sponsored by the Joint Program Executive Office’s Joint Tactical Radio System, the evaluation began Jan. 24 and is scheduled to end Friday.
Developed in 2008 by General Dynamics C4 Systems, the “software-definable” Rifleman Radio operates on a network to adapt to mission needs, said Maj. Jade Miller, assistant product manager for the JTRS Handheld, Manpack, SmallForm Fit program office in San Diego. It uses the Soldier Radio Waveform to fashion a “self-forming, self-healing network” without additional infrastructure, he said.
“It creates automatic range extension because it’s IP-based and can handle voice and data transmissions simultaneously,” he said. “It provides position location information for situational awareness. In urban environments, the network is able to aid connectivity through buildings to keep everyone with solid communications.
“It’s the first type of networking radio that comes in such a small package for the force to utilize.”
Maj. Lizette Sanabria, test officer for Operational Test Command at Fort Hood, Texas, said officials identified five deficiencies in the radio following an April 2009 limited user test at Fort Bliss, Texas. They included concerns over mission contribution and an immature concept of operations, reliability in complex terrain, range, thermal characteristics and battery life.
After a series of software and hardware upgrades, the radio was put through the Vice Chief of Staff of the Army Brigade Combat Team Integration Exercise at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico and government developmental testing on Fort Huachuca, Ariz., last year, Miller said. The Fort Benning assessment will determine whether the prior issues were resolved.
“It’s a more focused test to address very specific data points,” he said. “We’re making sure the key design improvements have been addressed.”
Sanabria said reductions in weight, size and temperature are among the changes from earlier prototypes. Range has increased, while the battery life has gone from about four hours up to 10.
With the rifleman radios strapped to their battle packs, the experimentation force measured communications capabilities during eight- and 12-hour missions the past three weeks, ranging from traffic control point setup to cordons, searches and raids. It tested range, functionality and reliability of the radio.
The Soldiers also put on a demonstration Thursday for VIPs at the McKenna Urban Operations Complex.
“Performance and reliability seem to be high, from what the Soldiers have told us,” Sanabria said. “Data is being gathered and documented by the Maneuver Battle Lab through surveys and questionnaires.”
Miller said their input would be considered in the Army Test and Evaluation Command’s operational and test and evaluation report, which will support a decision to purchase limited quantities in July. More integration exercises are planned as well this summer at White Sands Missile Range and Fort Bliss.