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The Army's $6 Billion radio boondoggle

Nebor

Lifer
Jun 24, 2003
29,582
11
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Link

Not surprising at all. The Army's top down, rank focused structure allows crusty old men who wear stars to dictate technology requirements\procurement. The culture causes the sniveling sycophants to "never tell the commander no" and instead set off to achieve the impossible, wasting enormous amounts of time and money. Basically you have the "internet is a series of tubes" generation telling the youtube generation that they want their coffee maker networked to their iPad because they saw it on Jay Leno. Throw in the corrupting influence of these defense manufacturers\contractors promising those senior officers jobs in exchange for continuing these ridiculous programs, and you have a recipe for continuing disaster.

Honestly, for being at war in Afghanistan for 10 years now, our ability communicate on the battlefield is shockingly poor, and incredibly expensive. The best systems we have? Commercial off the shelf (COTS) systems adapted for our use.
 

Nintendesert

Diamond Member
Mar 28, 2010
7,761
5
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Link

Honestly, for being at war in Afghanistan for 10 years now, our ability communicate on the battlefield is shockingly poor, and incredibly expensive. The best systems we have? Commercial off the shelf (COTS) systems adapted for our use.



I don't disagree with a lot of that article and what you stated, but I disagree here. I can't get into specifics but you have some really bad communications people if the best comms you can get are commercial stuff and your radio men can't figure out how to operate a little green radio and build FEAs when necessary. :\
 

shortylickens

No Lifer
Jul 15, 2003
79,615
12,402
126
I spent 9 years in the Navy, 6 as an ET.

I am still angry at all the hideously overpriced crap we have that passes for "technology".
The biggest problem in my opinion is the Congressmans Brother-In-Law syndrome.
 

Nebor

Lifer
Jun 24, 2003
29,582
11
76
I don't disagree with a lot of that article and what you stated, but I disagree here. I can't get into specifics but you have some really bad communications people if the best comms you can get are commercial stuff and your radio men can't figure out how to operate a little green radio and build FEAs when necessary. :\
Little green radios don't work in the terrain we're dealing with. You need retransmitters, either on guarded mountain tops or on blimps. Or you use satellites, but there's just too many of us for our number of satellites.

Cell phones work everywhere though. That's my point.
 

EagleKeeper

Discussion Club Moderator<br>Elite Member
Staff member
Oct 30, 2000
42,591
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Scope creep and the unwillingnes to look at civilian technology when you desire to build a government kingdom
 

unokitty

Diamond Member
Jan 5, 2012
3,346
1
0
I spent 9 years in the Navy, 6 as an ET.

I am still angry at all the hideously overpriced crap we have that passes for "technology".
The biggest problem in my opinion is the Congressmans Brother-In-Law syndrome.

I only spent two years in the army... But I never had any communications gear that I trusted.

As Sentry Dogs were trained to kill everyone in the world except their handler, Sentry Dog teams always worked alone, at night, on the perimeter, in the dark, in the jungle, in the rain... And with my Platoon, it also meant carrying a radio that, most often, didn't work.

From my perspective, the military acquisitions process seems built to benefit politicians and the defense contractors rather than to provide appropriate tools.

Lets look at the F-22 that has a unit cost of between 137 and 678 million dollars. According to Wired "... since the F-22 entered service in 2005, every other operational warplane in the U.S. arsenal has seen action in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya or other conflict zones. But the tiny fleet of pricey F-22s, optimized for ultra-rare dogfighting missions, missing key upgrades and frequently grounded, hasn’t flown a single combat sortie."

Seems like a lot of politicians and defense contractors benefited from that program. A shame that no soldiers have...

Uno
Sentry Dog Handler
US Army 69-71
 

shortylickens

No Lifer
Jul 15, 2003
79,615
12,402
126
Little green radios don't work in the terrain we're dealing with. You need retransmitters, either on guarded mountain tops or on blimps. Or you use satellites, but there's just too many of us for our number of satellites.

Cell phones work everywhere though. That's my point.
Ummm, Ok, I dont have the time to correct you but, thats just wrong.
 

NoCreativity

Golden Member
Feb 28, 2008
1,735
62
91
Another issue is the constant turnover of leadership. As soon as the new guy takes over he steers the program(s) in a new direction often 180 degrees from where it was headed.

It's either promotion or retirement for most of these guys so they need to "make their mark" for promotion. And unfortunately, leadership doesn't seem to recognize the completion or successful continuation of an already correctly headed program as promotion material.
 

EagleKeeper

Discussion Club Moderator<br>Elite Member
Staff member
Oct 30, 2000
42,591
5
0
I think I'll take the high ground on this one, as a communications officer currently posting from Afghanistan.
do not most radios work best from high ground? :p
 

SilthDraeth

Platinum Member
Oct 28, 2003
2,635
0
71
I think I'll take the high ground on this one, as a communications officer currently posting from Afghanistan.
But... But... Shortylickens is proving you wrong by refusing to refute anything you have said with any sort of actual argument.

I believe Shorty here. His strawman has no holes!
 

Cerb

Elite Member
Aug 26, 2000
17,484
33
86
Wow, that's much worse than the one I worked on. I was able to figure out how to get it working (not the OP one, this was much smaller in scale, but had similar over-reaching requirements and specs, including selectable frequency ranges). Paying for minor incremental improvements on a fundamentally broken system cost much less in the very short term, though it guaranteed that the project would never be truly viable. Everyone above the contractors got their paycheck that way, though, stringing it along, rather than trying to make it work.

I understand the need to specialize, and have somewhat stringent requirements, but at some point, they need to realize that slightly modified COTS is the way to go.
 

davmat787

Diamond Member
Nov 30, 2010
5,513
24
76
Blame George Washington.
But Washington knew the importance of having quality gear and supply methods. He replaced his quartermaster with a then overqualified General (don't recall his name atm) to ensure his troops would have the food, quality winter gear, and ammo they would need to fend off the impending red coat buildup come spring.

As for the boondoggle mentioned in the OP, it seems like one of the major problems is that SDR (Software Defined Radio) just wasn't ready yet to have based such an important project on ten years ago. Components were too big as well.

Interestingly, there is another SDR related article on front of ars today, very interesting technology. Looks like SDR can do to radio tech what going from vacuum tubes to transistors did for electronics.
 

Hugo Drax

Diamond Member
Nov 20, 2011
5,647
47
91
I only spent two years in the army... But I never had any communications gear that I trusted.

As Sentry Dogs were trained to kill everyone in the world except their handler, Sentry Dog teams always worked alone, at night, on the perimeter, in the dark, in the jungle, in the rain... And with my Platoon, it also meant carrying a radio that, most often, didn't work.

From my perspective, the military acquisitions process seems built to benefit politicians and the defense contractors rather than to provide appropriate tools.

Lets look at the F-22 that has a unit cost of between 137 and 678 million dollars. According to Wired "... since the F-22 entered service in 2005, every other operational warplane in the U.S. arsenal has seen action in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya or other conflict zones. But the tiny fleet of pricey F-22s, optimized for ultra-rare dogfighting missions, missing key upgrades and frequently grounded, hasn’t flown a single combat sortie."

Seems like a lot of politicians and defense contractors benefited from that program. A shame that no soldiers have...

Uno
Sentry Dog Handler
US Army 69-71
F-22's are for potential Alien invasion threats.
 

Arglebargle

Senior member
Dec 2, 2006
892
1
81
I think I'll take the high ground on this one, as a communications officer currently posting from Afghanistan.
Are the Iridium phones still the best bet? Reading after action reports from Iraq, I got the impression that they were the tops available. Sounded to me like there were a bunch of different systems thrown into the field, and some worked well, some had issues and some were just abominable.

On the other hand, I don't know if I'd want to trust my life on some random commercial hardware. Though even some milspec stuff is iffy. Heaven help you if you have to depend on some Tycho built crap made on third shift.
 

Nebor

Lifer
Jun 24, 2003
29,582
11
76
Are the Iridium phones still the best bet? Reading after action reports from Iraq, I got the impression that they were the tops available. Sounded to me like there were a bunch of different systems thrown into the field, and some worked well, some had issues and some were just abominable.

On the other hand, I don't know if I'd want to trust my life on some random commercial hardware. Though even some milspec stuff is iffy. Heaven help you if you have to depend on some Tycho built crap made on third shift.
I kinda hate my Iridium phone. Mainly because it takes so many digits to dial, and different prefix codes for every different thing you want to dial. And if you put the encryption pack on it, it becomes even less reliable.

Satellite communications with the newer Harris handheld radios is pretty good in trucks, or if you have time to stop and set up an antenna. Also there's a newer system called DTCS that uses a huge network of satellites to provide more channels for us to use.
 

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