Harris Corp Radios Don’t Meet U.S. Army’s Needs, Tester Says

Updated on
  • Radio’s limitations forced military units to change tactics
  • Army, which may buy up to 10,000 radios, disputes results

The Army should consider not buying a new Harris Corp vehicle radio designed to improve and increase the transmission of voice, video and data with command posts because it “did not meet commanders’ operational needs,” according to the Pentagon’s top weapons tester. The Army disagreed.

The radio’s limited range, combined with large size and power requirements, resulted in “significant constraints in combat operations” during two field tests, Pentagon tester Michael Gilmore told Pentagon and Army buyers in a July 3 memo. The radio’s “design constraints force maneuver units to change tactics and hinder the way they fight in order to support the radios,” Gilmore wrote.

The Army plans by mid-September to request approval to buy the first 991 of a potential nearly 10,000 radios through 2034. The service, which has bought 206 radios for test and evaluation, strongly disagrees with the evaluation, spokesman Paul Mehney said.

All 39 battalion and company commanders and senior staff surveyed to assess the results of two field evaluations “recommended the Army not field” the radio, Gilmore wrote in the memo obtained by Bloomberg News.

Harris’ shares fell 1.1 percent to $85.49 at 11:24 a.m. EST.

Limited Range

The commanders and staff said the two-channel radio provided no added value in cases where satellite communications weren’t available for use, he wrote. Field staff “were forced to develop communications plans that constrained the unit’s maneuvers in order to compensate for” the radio’s “limited transmission range,” he wrote.

Mehney said in an e-mail that the Army validated the radio’s capability after an exercise in May. As a result, the technology has been authorized to proceed to a Pentagon review “later this summer.”

“The radio enables soldiers to talk and chat, collaborate and share reports and send data to battalion and brigade, and provide the mid-tier that links” with various tactical Internet networks, he said. The May field test showed the “capability provides a vital communications link during times of degraded or denied satellite connectivity.”

Milestones Met

The radio “has met all program requirements and milestones, and successfully executed all program formal test activities up through” the limited fielded testing, so the Army “has deemed the radio as operational effective and stated that it enhances user effectiveness,” Brendan O’Connell, president of Harris tactical communications, said via e-mail. “We continue to collaborate with the Army to enhance the capability and are looking forward to moving” to the next phase, he said.

The Melbourne, Florida-based company “can’t speculate on the revenue estimates” based on the 991 radios, O’Connell said. Chief Executive Officer William Brown told analysts during a May 3 earnings call that the Army radio will “contribute to higher earnings, higher revenue in fiscal 2017” in the “tens of millions of dollar range.”

Brown said the company expects to receive a production award in the “September timeframe.” If the Pentagon approves procurement, the first order will be for as many as 241 radios, purchased with $10.2 million in funds approved for this year. It will be followed by 150 more radios, Army spokesman Mehney said.

Weapons tester Gilmore agreed that the Army needs to buy a radio system that filled the requirements the Harris radio is designed to meet, but wrote “the test results indicate using” that particular radio “would not fulfill that need.”

Gilmore’s memo was reported earlier by Defense News.

(Updates with falling shares in fifth paragraph.)
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