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MCTSSA History

In the early 1960s, a MTDS Test Unit was established as part of MACS-3 (MCAS (H) Santa Ana, California) to assess MTDS concepts and support development of the first MTDS system – an automated Tactical Air Operations Center (TAOC).

By 1966, MACS-3 had taken delivery of the first system for operational testing. This system included a fully automated TAOC (designated the AN/TYQ-2), as well as a Tactical Data Communications Central (TDCC). The TDCC (designated the AN/TYQ-3) employed a UNIVAC CP-808 computer and hosted the critical operational software to drive the MTDS and exchange air command and control data.

By 1968, it was apparent that MACS-3 —with its organic Tactical Computer Programming Section—was not organized or staffed to meet the growing demands inherent in the acquisition and support of these new automated systems. As such, Litton Industries was contracted to initiate a study to explore the requirements for a Marine Corps Tactical Computer Programming Support Activity (MCTCPSA). The envisioned role of the MCTCPSA was to support computer programming associated with tactical data systems, both fielded and future. When completed, the study recommended the creation of a Tactical Data Systems Support Center to be located at Camp Pendleton, California. The results of this study were approved in concept and the Commanding General, Marine Corps Development and Education Command (MCDEC) was tasked to further study and plan for the expeditious activation of the proposed Center. As part of the study process, MCDEC was directed to ensure that consideration was given to the resources and capabilities of MACS-3. The capabilities of a separately planned Marine Tactical Command and Control (MTACCS) Test Bed Facility, also to be located at Camp Pendleton, would also be weighed. The requirements for the MTACCS Test Bed stemmed from two Naval Research studies in the mid-1960s —conducted by Stanford Research Institute and Informatics, Inc.—recommending a test bed approach for evaluating new technologies for the command and control of Marine combat forces.

By May 1970, the MCDEC-developed implementation plan was approved. According to this plan, the resources of MACS-3 would serve as the nucleus of the new organization. Additionally, the MTACCS Test Bed and the West Coast Branch, Amphibian Vehicle Division would become sub-units of the new organization. Consolidation of the unit would occur at Camp Pendleton as adequate facilities were constructed and became available.

In June 1970, a Marine Corps Bulletin was published redesignating the MACS-3 organization as the “Marine Corps Tactical Systems Support Activity” (MCTSSA), effective 1 July 1970, with MCTSSA becoming part of the Development Center under MCDEC. Initially, MCTSSA would consist of a primary site (still under construction) at Camp Pendleton and a detachment (Sub-Unit 1) located at the former MACS-3 site at MCAS (H) in Santa Ana, California.

As construction was completed at the primary site, personnel and equipment from Sub-Unit 1 were relocated to Camp Pendleton. The Sub-Unit was finally closed in May 1976, as the final radar systems were moved to Camp Pendleton.

MCTSSA was originally envisioned as an agile, highly technical organization that could serve as a catalyst in adopting and sustaining new command and control technologies across the Marine Corps. Very quickly, MCTSSA became the largest Research, Development, Test and Evaluation (RDT&E) organization in the Marine Corps with a Table of Organization (T/O) that reflected nearly 400 officers and Marines and 50 civilian employees. Significantly, MCTSSA’s T/O also guaranteed full staffing, thus providing the command with first choice in the selection of officers and enlisted personnel. MCTSSA’s responsibilities spanned the breadth of the acquisition cycle at the time: from the advanced exploratory phases of the RDT&E cycle, though both developmental and operational testing, to responsibility for the configuration control and maintenance of interoperability standards for fielded tactical systems.

The success with which MCTSSA was able to evolve in the face of rapidly changing technologies and emerging military doctrine can best be exemplified by examining the unique mission assigned to MCTSSA at the beginning of each decade. The following mission statements reflect the primary role MCTSSA has played over the past forty-plus years of service.


MCTSSA will “test, evaluate, experiment, and provide programming support for all tactical systems and related equipment and to test, evaluate, and experiment with vehicles and related equipment, and to provide coordination for developmental matters in that geographical area.”


MCTSSA will “(1) define concepts and requirements for designated conceptual tactical command and control systems, (2) perform Development Test and Evaluation (DT&E) of designated tactical data systems and telecommunications-electronics equipment, (3) provided hardware and software management support of systems and equipments assigned for development test and evaluation, (4) assist FMF units in conducting Operational Test and Evaluation (OT&E) of tactical data systems and telecommunications-electronics equipment, and (5) provided software management control and maintenance support of fielded tactical data systems.”


MCTSSA will “provide Post Deployment Software Support (including firmware) and serve as the Marine Corps’ principal activity for the conduct of software testing for tactical data systems designated by the Commandant of the Marine Corps. Additionally, conduct testing of Assault Amphibians and associated equipment.”


MCTSSA will “sustain combat readiness of the Operating Forces by ensuring that Command, Control, Communications, Computer, and Intelligence systems software, under the purview of MARCORSYSCOM, is properly acquired, developed, tested and supported throughout the system’s lifecycle.”


MCTSSA will provide Marine Air Ground Task Force (MAGTF)/Joint C4I system and system of systems technical expertise and support throughout all acquisition lifecycle phases in order to ensure C4I systems are engineered, tested, certified and supported thus enabling Marines to continue to win battles.


MCTSSA continues to provide technical support for Marine Corps systems throughout the acquisition lifecycle and plays a vital role in assisting the Operating Forces in efforts to effectively employ the systems in garrison and in combat. As the operational demands and technical needs of the Marine Corps evolve over time, so will MCTSSA adapt and continue to serve. Technical Excellence…Tactical Value.

Marine Corps Systems Command