By Mr. Rick Michael, Mission Command Test Directorate, U.S. Army Operational Test Command
FORT BRAGG, North Carolina – Airborne Soldiers with 1st Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment (PIR), 82nd Airborne Division, completed almost two weeks testing the Army’s newest small leader radio (LR) packages.
“Soldiers of the 82nd Airborne Division demonstrated tactical communications at its finest during the initial operational test,” said Maj. Brian Ramirez, Leader Radio (LR) Test Officer with the Fort Hood (Now designated Fort Cavazos)-based U.S. Army Operational Test Command’s Mission Command Test Directorate (MCTD).
The Handheld, Manpack and Small (HMS) Form Fit/Tactical Radio variants are two-channel handhelds, used at the company and platoon levels by squad and team leaders to talk to each other and to aircraft to improve battlefield situational awareness.
Ramirez said the LR system is designed as an interoperable family of advanced software-reprogrammable, dual-channel, net-centric reliable communications radio sets.
The Generation 2 Manpack (MP) Radio is a two-channel, software defined, multi-waveform, General Purpose User (GPU) radio designed to support mounted and dismounted operations.
Explaining the two systems in non-technical, every-day terms, Ramirez said, “This initial operational test of radio capabilities gave the Army the opportunity to demonstrate the current and future of tactical communications.”
The HMS MP will be fielded primarily to Brigade Combat Team (BCT) Battalions, Companies, and Platoons.
The GEN2 MP is deployed in three configurations: a Tactical Operations Center (TOC) kit for command posts; mounted configurations integrated into the Army’s tactical and combat platforms; and a rucksack-held configuration to support Army dismounted operations.
Ramirez said operational testing of the radios are no different than an improved tank or new weapon system.
“These radio systems are subjected to weather, terrain, and the daily regimen of Light Infantrymen in an effort to replicate the actual operational environment to which they will be subjected if selected,” said Ramirez.
“Operational testing helps determine the effectiveness, suitability and survivability of operational systems Soldiers can use that works.”
The test, like many other previously routine operations, adjusted its daily operations to cope with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
“Soldiers from the test unit and test team begin with daily COVID-19 screening and temperature checks;” Ramirez said. “This allowed the test team to identify and contain any possible transmission between specific bubbles.”
Once cleared into their specific environments, all attempts were made to maintain social distancing, between operations and test support functions, reducing interaction between test support personnel and test unit Soldiers.
“Operational Testing is about assisting the Army in providing modern software-defined radios with the latest technology for Soldiers,” said Col. Patrick Curry, director of MCTD.
“It is about making sure that the communication systems developed assist the Soldier in their mission and ensuring Soldiers are effective against all enemies in any operational environment.”
About the U.S. Army Operational Test Command:
OTC taps the Total Army when testing Army, joint, and multi-service warfighting systems in realistic operational environments, using typical Soldiers to determine whether the systems are effective, suitable, and survivable. OTC is required by public law to test major systems before they are fielded to its ultimate customer — the American Soldier.
OTC’s Mission Command Test Directorate tests systems for a net-centric environment that will process and transmit voice, data, messaging and video information through networks at the tactical, operational, strategic and sustaining base levels.