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Photo Information

Sgt. Johnathon Merten, a radio operator with 2nd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, conducts a radio check during a long distance, high-frequency communications training event held on Camp Pendleton, California, Jan. 13. In March, the Marine Corps’ High Frequency Radio II received a favorable fielding decision one year earlier than originally forecast. Marine Corps Systems Command expects to begin fielding the new radio in the spring. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Benjamin Aulick)

Photo by Cpl. Sabrina Candiaflores

MCSC achieves fielding decision after ‘herculean’ effort

12 May 2020 | Matt Gonzales, MCSC Office of Public Affairs and Communication Marine Corps Systems Command

In March, the Marine Corps' new high-frequency radio received a favorable fielding decision—one year earlier than originally forecast.

The High Frequency Radio II provides Marines with long-range, beyond line-of-site radio communications, supporting every level of the Marine Air-Ground Task Force. The radio system comprises Wideband HF, increasing the data rate to more quickly communicate larger amounts of information.

The HFR II is compliant with the National Security Agency’s Cryptographic Modernization Mandate—an effort to modernize Information capabilities for the 21st century—and will replace the legacy HFR system.

“HFR II will fill much of the same needs that the legacy HFR systems provide: long-haul communications, and the primary backup mode of communications in a satellite communications-denied environment,” said Leigh King, Marine Corps Systems Command’s project officer for the HFR II.

As King noted, fielding the HFR II aligns with Gen. David Berger’s priorities in his Commandant’s Planning Guidance. MCSC collaborated with key stakeholders to achieve important milestones and a fielding decision in just over a year—a process the program office initially projected to take much longer.

To accomplish this feat, MCSC changed the program strategy, creating a more efficient schedule.

“The team pulled off a herculean effort and accelerated the acquisition strategy to meet [Combat Development and Integration’s] request to field to III [Marine Expeditionary Force] and 15th [Marine Expeditionary Unit] as quickly as possible,” said John Maurer, MCSC’s deputy portfolio manager for Command Element Systems.

MCSC expects to field the HFR II this spring, with expected Full Operational Capability in fiscal year 2023. However, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic prevents large crowds from gathering, affecting fielding events. The crisis forced the program office to come up with innovative ways to train Marines to employ the system.

Command Element Systems is exploring the possibility of employing video training and other tools to accomplish the New Equipment Training amid current travel restrictions caused by COVID-19. This method of training will enable Marines to familiarize themselves with the technology without compromising their health.

“In-person training will occur at a later date, when travel restrictions are lifted,” said King.

Lt. Col. Jeffrey Decker, MCSC’s team lead for Ground Radios, said his team is delivering a modernized, lethal and sustainable capability to Marines in the HFR II. He said the program office is providing a critically needed, next-generation radio capability today without admiring the challenges of the past.

“The HFR team has been focused on replacing the current long-haul, beyond line-of-sight legacy HF systems with a modernized system that is 10 times faster, smaller and lighter than the existing HF radios,” said Decker.

Decker commended the Ground Radios Team for not only reaching a favorable fielding decision, but also for providing Marines with a critical piece of equipment that can increase efficiency on the battlefield and save lives.

“The Commandant's Planning Guidance gave us a clear, common focus, and the team—along with leadership—has accelerated the schedule to essentially add lethality to the MAGTF today,” said Decker. “It's not simply about moving faster but moving in a disciplined manner to ensure we are agile in our acquisitions and accurate in our execution.”