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US Marine Corps fielding new HF radio ahead of schedule

A radio operator conducts a radio check during a long distance, high-frequency communications training event held on Camp Pendleton, California, Jan. 13. Photo: US Marine Corps

The US Marine Corps’ new high-frequency radio received a favorable fielding decision in March this year, a year earlier than originally forecast, the service has announced.

The high frequency radio II provides marines with long-range, beyond line-of-site radio communications, supporting every level of the marine air-ground task force. The radio system comprises wideband HF, increasing the data rate to more quickly communicate larger amounts of information.

The HFR II is compliant with the National Security Agency’s Cryptographic Modernization Mandate—an effort to modernize information capabilities for the 21st century—and will replace the legacy HFR system.

“HFR II will fill much of the same needs that the legacy HFR systems provide: long-haul communications, and the primary backup mode of communications in a satellite communications-denied environment,” said Leigh King, Marine Corps Systems Command’s project officer for the HFR II.

As King noted, fielding the HFR II aligns with Gen. David Berger’s priorities in his Commandant’s Planning Guidance. MCSC collaborated with key stakeholders to achieve important milestones and a fielding decision in just over a year—a process the program office initially projected to take much longer.

To accomplish this feat, MCSC changed the program strategy, creating a more efficient schedule.

“The team pulled off a herculean effort and accelerated the acquisition strategy to meet [combat development and integration’s] request to field to III [Marine Expeditionary Force] and 15th [Marine Expeditionary Unit] as quickly as possible,” said John Maurer, MCSC’s deputy portfolio manager for Command Element Systems.

MCSC expects to field the HFR II this spring, with expected full operational capability in fiscal year 2023. However, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic prevents large crowds from gathering, affecting fielding events. The crisis forced the program office to come up with innovative ways to train Marines to employ the system.

Command Element Systems is exploring the possibility of employing video training and other tools to accomplish the New Equipment Training amid current travel restrictions caused by COVID-19. This method of training will enable Marines to familiarize themselves with the technology without compromising their health.