2018 AUSA Global Force Symposium & Exposition Mid-Day Report (Day 1)
Harris Corporation (Booth #635) unveiled its AN/PRC-163, a next-generation, two-channel handheld radio for US Army leaders at the company level and below. The dual-channel radio supports narrow- and wide-band communications on each channel.
“This is a ‘full up’, two-channel capability, in a single, handheld unit,” Jeff Kroon, the company’s Director of Product Management for Radios and Waveforms for Communications Systems, explained and provided the first of other glimpses of how this product exceeds the performance of the Army’s legacy, single-channel radios. “It has built-in GPS and the ability to have an anti-spoofing capability, all in a single package that is extendable with a singular, modular interface.”
While the AN/PRC-163 was built to be a fully defined software radio, it also includes many integrated capabilities. In one instance, the customer will require one channel to be joined with the other channel and perform “crossbanding” – where the voice on one channel might communicate with the other channel, acting as one seamless network for voice and data. The industry expert continued, “Crossbanding is built into the radio and doesn’t require any external cables or other accessories to accomplish this feature – and this is a very unique capability. This allows a roll-out of new waveform capabilities while providing seamless interoperability with legacy waveforms.”
Harris is also emphasising that the software defined nature of the AN/PRC-163 permits it to meet additional requirements. “The software could also help it determine if there are threats around and provide threat warning capabilities, or it could be reprogrammed to have more adaptive capabilities or more resilient waveforms. This is a fully defined software 2 channel radio, not achieved by a ‘bolt-on’ module,” Mr. Kroon emphasized.
The Harris-led AN/PRC-163-led industry team includes TrellisWare Technologies (San Diego, California), that provide a powerful edge waveform capability. Mr. Kroon added, “We have other members to supply other components. We work carefully to make sure we gather in as many best-of-breed capabilities as we can for the different radio elements, and invest as much as we can, but we also make sure we reach out to industry, as necessary, to get the best value.”
And while Harris obtains a waveform from an external supplier for the AN/PRC-163, the company remains a major Software Communications Architecture waveform supplier for the international and domestic markets, offering more than 50 waveforms, from high frequency to beyond line-of-sight satellite communications applications, from its corporate library.
The Harris team has an ambitious roadmap for elevating AN/PRC-163 to its next technology plateau, including providing the services with options from the company’s vast waveform library to better meet immediate, near-peer threats. “And we’re also looking at capabilities beyond that – to better understand the spectrum around you, for instance, for planning,” the Harris official added.
Beyond technology, Harris also remains focused on the human interface with its product portfolio. Mr. Kroon reminded MONCh, “Radios can be fairly complex.” Indeed, one of the things Harris discovered as it launched this two-channel AN/PRC-163, “it is very easy to make the user experience very overwhelming.” Accordingly, “we have put a lot of thought and customer feedback into the way our user interface works with two channels operating simultaneously. We really think we have eased the burden on the soldier. We think it is a very easy to understand user interface. It should be very familiar if they have used any of our last generation products and it is very easy to understand what is going on both of those channels,” Mr. Kroon concluded.
The new, two-channel radio can handle traffic from the unclassified to top secret levels on both channels.
The Harris radio brand is well known in military forces around the globe. Similarly, the AN/PRC-163 is expected to be offered to US allies after progressing through the appropriate government approvals.