Technical experts from Marine Corps Tactical Systems Support Activity tested various communications systems in support of Marine Corps operating forces during ongoing exercises in May and June.
MCTSSA engineers and Marines with 5th Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, evaluated pathways for passing digital targeting information from joint systems to the M142 High-Mobility Artillery Rocket System, or HIMARS, which culminated in a successful live-fire event at Dugway Proving Grounds, Utah, June 21.
“The MCTSSA workforce is highly skilled and focused on providing direct, technical support to the operating forces to help Marines develop command and control solutions with legacy, as well as new-development equipment,” said Col. Robert Bailey, MCTSSA commanding officer. “The goal is to meet emergent threats in the current and future security environment.”
MCTSSA’s combined military-civilian workforce provides a dual understanding of the tactical and operational concepts of employment of Marine Air-Ground Task Force C2 systems, and the engineering and technical aspects of how these systems work and interface with one another.
“The systems of today are complex characters made up of hardware, software, networks and protocols,” said Nancy Rathgeber, MCTSSA Common Aviation Command and Control System technical support officer. “All of these things work together and affect one another, sometimes in unexpected ways.”
The CAC2S, managed by Program Executive Officer Land Systems, was designed to communicate with the Advanced Field Artillery Tactical Data System, which supports HIMARS targeting.
Though designed to the same standards and materiel specifications, and intended for communications with one another, different systems don't always play well together, said Rathgeber, who was an Air Command and Control System Marine and used to work on the legacy systems.
“You have to test systems on their own and in architectures intended to support Marine Corps' capabilities and objectives to know for certain that these systems can do the work the Marine Corps needs them to do,” she said. “Ultimately, it's about ensuring Marines can be successful with the systems and tools the military gives them to use.”
The Marines, Rathgeber and her team saw the benefit during the live-fire exercise. By working with MCTSSA beforehand, the unit was able to save time, money and training opportunities, ensuring the systems and networks would work in a field environment prior to deployment.
“This event was mutually beneficial to the battery and MCTSSA,” said Capt. Dwayne Littlejohn, Battery R commander with 5th Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division. “It shows the power of MCTSSA being able to provide subject matter expert support across multiple programs of record in the Marine Corps in one venue.”
The test event was MCTSAA’s first time working with the actual weapon system.
“It enabled us to design and validate a system architecture around a specific mission set as a first step,” said Littlejohn. “We will continue to partner with MCTSSA so when we go into a training environment, we can develop and train to tactics, techniques and procedures knowing the system architecture works.”
MCTSSA, the only elite full-scale laboratory facility operated by the Marine Corps, is a subordinate command of Marine Corps Systems Command. MCTSSA provides test and evaluation, engineering, and deployed technical support for Marine Corps and joint service command, control, computer, communications and intelligence systems throughout all acquisition life-cycle phases.