The Marine Corps intends to upgrade 50,000 radios with new multi-channel, software-defined models that will be more resistant to adversary threats.
The capabilities are being modernized with NSA cryptographic standards, which the agency is mandating across the Department of Defense.
Marine Corps System Command has already fielded over 4,000 of the platforms since October 2023, with tentative plans to complete fielding of new radios and upgrading existing systems in fiscal 2025, according to a spokesperson.
The tools will be issued to units throughout the Marine Air Ground Task Force and supporting organizations. The spokesperson said the technologies will initially be fielded according to current tables of equipment reflected in the Total Force Structure Management System. Replacement is being prioritized for units that possess radios that can’t accommodate required updates.
Software-defined capabilities allow for them to be rapidly updated, enabling forces to keep pace with current threats.
“The closest analogy to our current transition in radio technology is akin to moving from the era of flip phones to the advanced world of smartphones,” Richard Sessions, program manager for Communications Systems, said in a statement. “In the past, we were limited to purchasing radios with fixed capabilities and had to replace them with newer models as technology evolved. Now, we’re shifting towards acquiring highly adaptable hardware radios that are not just modular but also capable of supporting new waveforms, marking a significant milestone in our communication capabilities.”
Moreover, the Marines say that not making these updates would result in the systems becoming obsolete in the future.
“These systems offer upgrades to current tactical radios operating in a broad range of the ground and air communication spectrum,” the spokesperson said. “The flexibility offered by software defined radios allow easier upgrades through product improvements and hosting of a wider range of capabilities. These radios now offer enhanced situational awareness, communications network resiliency, improved size, weight, and power attributes, and increase overall effectiveness.”
According to the Corps, these upgrades are also in accordance with Force Design, the service’s broad modernization effort to ensure it stays ahead of rapidly evolving threats.
Marines need redundant systems that have multiple paths for communication in the event they are jammed or are operating in a congested signal environment, which is anticipated in future conflicts against sophisticated adversaries. Multi-channel, software-defined systems are expected to enable the flexibility and redundancy required for dealing with those types of challenges.