The Harris AN/PRC-158 costs the US gov’t roughly $200,000 per radio

Harris AN/PRC-158 multichannel (Source: Harris Corp. via Motley Fool)

Harris AN/PRC-158 multichannel transceiver (Source: Harris Corp. via Motley Fool)

(Source: The Motley Fool)

Is the U.S. Army Really Spending $12.7 Billion on Radios?

The U.S. government spends a lot of money on weapons. So much money, in fact, that sometimes, you see a number and think, “That can’t be right. But then again, maybe.”

I had one of those moments last week, when the Department of Defense reported that it had just awarded three contractors a $12.7 billion contract to supply it with radios. That number couldn’t be right. And in fact, since the exact dollar figure on the contract read “$12,725,724,536,” I thought it was more likely a typo. Someone was data-entering the number for a $12.7 million radio contract, mistyped the “thousands” place, retyped it, and forgot to delete the original entry.

But it wasn’t a typo.

And the Pentagon really is spending $12.7 billion on radios.

$500 toilet seats are so 1980s
That’s a whole lot of moola to spend on what’s likely to work out to about 65,000 radios — roughly $200,000 per set. Granted, the value of the award also includes the cost of “accessories and related services” relevant to the radios.[…]

Continue reading at The Motley Fool online…

What is the Harris Falcon III AN/PRC-158?

Wanting to know a little more about the Harris Falcon III AN/PRC-158 Multi-channel Manpack (MCMP), I checked out Harris’ product page. Here’s the provided description:

TYPE 1 Security in a Versatile Two-Channel Manpack
The Harris Falcon III® AN/PRC-158 Multi-channel Manpack (MCMP) is a modular two-channel manpack radio that covers the full 30-2500 MHz frequency range in a form factor 30% smaller than similar products.

Hosting a wide variety of Software Communications Architecture (SCA) narrowband and wideband waveforms, each of the AN/PRC-158’s two channels can be used to transmit and receive simultaneously. The radio can also connect different nets and sub-nets for both voice and data using its embedded routing and cross-banding capabilities. Plus the AN/PRC-158 incorporates fully integrated MUOS-capable hardware into the standard radio. This eliminates the logistical complexity of Power Amplifier appliqué change-outs, as well as the cost and weight burden of an additional module.

Key Benefits:

  • Covers 30 to 2500 MHz frequency range up to U.S. TOP SECRET level with Harris Sierra™ II software programmable encryption
  • 30% smaller than other 2-channel manpacks
  • Runs narrowband and wideband waveforms
  • Integrated MUOS hardware
  • Embedded routing and cross-banding
  • Optional mission modules for advanced mission capabilities

Key Capabilities:

  • NSA-certified for voice and data communications
  • Supports numerous legacy encryption and keyfill modes, and Type 3 AES keys in VHF/UHF AM and FM mode, storing multiple mission fill files for maximum mission flexibility
  • Embedded SAASM GPS receiver allows local position to be displayed as well as automatic position reporting
  • Advanced capabilities with mission modules for ISR reception, MANET capabilities and SIGINT.

Click here to view the product page on Harris’ website.

As The Motley Fool suggests (and rightly so) this might be a brilliant time to invest in Harris Corp.

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19 thoughts on “The Harris AN/PRC-158 costs the US gov’t roughly $200,000 per radio

  1. Brian

    Folks who have never worked with the military don’t understand that organizations like the US Army don’t buy ‘items’, they buy ‘systems’. This radio is part of a system, and the system costs include:

    – Hardware development costs
    – Manufacturing costs
    – Software development & maintenance
    – Peripherals (antennas, headsets, microphones, vehicle mounts, aircraft mounts, power supplies, batteries, cables, transportation cases, etc.)
    – Specialized test and certification equipment
    – Specialized test and certification facilities
    – System documentation development
    – Spare parts and peripheral stocks
    – Technical maintenance training program development
    – End user training program development
    – System fielding costs
    – Warranty costs (yes, the US military pays for warranties on just about everything it buys, from aircraft carriers to radios)

    It’s these additional system costs that tend to push the per item cost up and up, but they are unavoidable and a necessary component of fielding any new system.

    Reply
  2. Sjoerd van Wou

    The Russian Magnitogorsk Usurpator X-76II costs $16 billion per radio! It covers 20 kHz to 999 THz (lambda=300 nm from the built-in daylight torch), and has a small built-in nuclear power source, which lasts four decades of daily use.

    Reply
  3. Ivan Cholakov - NO2CW

    I agree it packs anything that it could possibly pack and I am sure its fully programmable with any future digital encryption and other advances. It has to have $50k worth of components and $100k in sunk research. When the government purchases they also want a package with the training manuals, delivery and probably 5 year live support. These alone can add $50k per unit So considering a lifespan of 15 years at least…completely understandable.

    I wonder what the learning process of this equipment is. Although we see the actual unit alone there has to be an external programming unit to load mission specific frequencies and modes, send real time updates, upload all kinds of telemetries and who knows what else. We can all it radio, it really is a multi mode multi purpose, multi everything communications terminal.

    Reply
  4. wb7ond

    This stuff is cutting edge technology, not to mention all the myriad of 3 letter agency certifications that have to be met $$$$. Yes the gov actually charges itself to do certifications. The data speeds over portable cellular satellite (MUOS) are state of the art. The amount of equipment from just 10 years ago that these radios replace is incredible. Multiple encryption devices that had to be matched with the frequency range of the individual radios. If each of those devices had to be purchased, the price would exceed 200K per communications device. These radios interface with local P25 equipped authorities with replete encryption. You are looking at a do-all complete radio for the soldier, that runs on battery (don’t get me started on battery life)….

    Reply
  5. erik

    Now if only they would devote these resources to the 3- 30 MHz. spectrum. Imagine how shortwave broadcasting could be revitalized!

    Reply
  6. Edward

    $200 G! Has any shown up on EBAY yet? what is the buy it now rate? 300G?
    I think the prices will come down once these oil wars are over.

    Reply
  7. TP Reitzel

    The price is outrageous as should be expected from any government. I’ve worked with hardware encryption for decades so I’ve witnessed the changes over a couple of decades. The DoD’s budget needs to be slashed in half as a starting point and the troops brought home. These outrageously expensive projects keep Eisenhour’s military-industrial establishment, aka fascism (governmental and corporate collaboration), in business.

    Reply
  8. Keith Perron

    In reality that isn’t that much money. You need also take into consideration. How much R&D was involved. And what the full specs are. Standards for military will be different from consumer grade.

    200,000 is as someone else pointed out not just the cost of the radio. Also something else to consider is this is a very specialized product. It’s not as if millions will be produced.

    If Apple for example came out with a specially designed for less than 70,000 customers with all kinds of features that are taylor made for a specific job. The price would also be high.

    Reply
  9. Ken Hansen n2vip

    I remember on a ‘West Wing’ episode someone made fun of the military spending $200 on ashtrays. The military representative, played by Christian Slater, pointed out that they weren’t ‘ordinary’ ashtrays – and he reached over, grabbed his, and smashed it on his desk, whereupon it broke cleanly into 2 pieces. He explained that it was designed not to shatter and create additional shrapnel if it was in an explosion.

    These radios, while easy to mock at their price, are secure encryption radios – think an enigma machine in a man pack radio – and covers a swath of spectrum in excess of 2 GHz, and are hardened and climate-tested for environments few people would like to spend much time in.

    Add in the reality that the contract includes not only the actual radios, but also covers maint. for the life of the radios and an inventory of spare parts, and the price starts to look reasonable. I can only imagine the security involved in incorporating the encryption technology on them (secure facilities, background checks on assemblers, requirement that the radio be built in US, etc.).

    Reply
    1. DBM

      Most of these radios will also come with mounts/power amps and vehicular antennas (2 or more per system) and the cost to install these in vehicles. The cost of all of the DoD civilians overseeing the procurement for years is also added in. Also the cost of setting up the supply chain and for depot storage.

      Just as a side note, all of the things the military does to set milspect performance to insure a good product is actually procured and fielded was set up to protect the military for getting crap for equipment. Now it just causes everything to cost more and we still get crap for equipment.

      Reply
    2. DBM

      There is one other thing to think about. The army is going to buy the same radio from 3 different venders. The last time the army did this was when they procured the SINCGARs radio and it was purchased from 2 different venders. They got 2 DIFFERENT radios that had no common parts! They wasted millions when a million dollars was a lot of money and they had to throw away one venders radio to try to unscrew the pooch.

      Reply

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