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Elite US Army unit tests new handheld leader radios

US Army leader radio operational test
A Team Leader with 1st Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment (PIR), directs movements of his team using the Harris Leader Radio during an assault on an objective during the Handheld, Manpack and Small (HMS) Initial Operational Test (IOT) of the HMS Leader Radio Manpack (LR MP). Photo: US Army

Airborne Soldiers with 1st Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment (PIR), 82nd Airborne Division, have completed almost two weeks of testing the army’s newest small leader radio (LR) packages.

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.

In 2020, the US Army awarded L3Harris Technologies and Collins Aerospace a $203.2 million contract for generation 2 manpack radios ahead of this operational test that is expected to inform a full-rate production decision.

“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-based US Army Operational Test Command’s Mission Command Test Directorate (MCTD).

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 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.”