So after JRTS what next?

JRTS is dead.  So sayeth Stars and Stripes:

Army sought ‘universal’ radio, but created a boondoggle

As several dozen soldiers from the U.S. Army’s Task Force Rock drove into Afghanistan’s Chowkay Valley one morning in March 2010, Taliban fighters immediately began moving into ambush positions along a higher ridge. The force’s mission was to protect a U.S. reconstruction team as it met with village leaders, but it was stuck in place as the Taliban reached their fighting posts.

What tied the soldiers down were their radios: a forest of plastic and metal cubes sprouting antennae of different lengths and sizes. They had short-range models for talking with the reconstruction team, longer-range versions for reaching headquarters 25 miles away and a backup satellite radio in case the mountains blocked the transmission. An Air Force controller carried his own radio for talking to jet fighters overhead and a separate radio for downloading streaming video from the aircraft….. (read more).

A year ago plus a few weeks, I concluded the review of tactical radios suggesting the next step was something closer in concept to the commercial smart phone.  Didn’t take Carnac the Magnificent to figure that out.  Anyone who’d spent time in Iraq or Afghanistan, at least down to the FOB level and below, could divine the same conclusion:

Then, in 2010, the Army assembled 1,000 battlefield veterans at a desert training range at Fort Bliss, just outside El Paso, Texas, to try out the key bits of JTRS technology. They criticized its size, its weight, its short range and its tendency to break down. Michael Gilmore, the Army’s top weapons tester, cited the soldiers’ complaints in testimony before the House of Representatives Armed Services Committee. He said the ground radio “demonstrated little military utility.”

Bottom line,  the Army wanted the ultimate, do-all solution.  Trouble is that ultimate, do-all solutions often are too bloated to get out the door!

Recall this pursuit of “perfect” over “good enough” brought on the emergency fielding of PRC-25s in Vietnam, followed by the PRC-77 as an interim solution that survived three decades.  The “perfect” over “good enough” gave us SINCGARS with a painful fielding, and operability concerns.

The old “push to talk” architecture is fading away like the old time signal torches in the night.  We don’t need a modernized PRC-77, we need a data package solution complete with user applications tailored to mission needs.  Those sort of devices don’t spring from decades long development cycles, but rather from fast turn around, off the shelf procurement.  Time to change how the game is played.