General Dynamics C4 Systems has been awarded one of three $12m contracts to design a new information-systems ensemble for soldiers to use during combat operations.

General Dynamics received the contract award from the US Army’s tank-automotive and armaments command (Tacom) contracting centre.

The ground soldier ensemble features built-in equipment that will allow army team leaders to quickly access critical information about each other and their surroundings during a mission. This enables more effective decision-making during tactical operations.

The ensemble places emphasis on affordable components with reduced size, weight and power consumption and will have the computing power needed to enable small groups to view and manipulate information critical for mission planning.

Radios and a headset for audio and digital communication will also be included, along with the power source and software needed to run the army’s computer applications.

General Dynamics will deliver ten prototype ensembles by September 2009 for user field evaluations, where soldiers will evaluate the new systems and provide direct feedback.

During the second phase of the programme, another 60 systems will be delivered early in 2010, reflecting the modifications that may result from users’ field experiences.

The army will then conduct development and limited user testing at the conclusion of the second phase of this effort.

After appropriate approvals have been obtained, the army intends to award a contract for the production phase based on limited competition among the contractors that successfully complete the technology development phase.