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Marine Corps Systems Command supports 2017 Modern Day Military Expo

Sunday, September 17th, 2017

MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO, Va. — Marine Corps Systems Command will support the 37th Annual Modern Day Marine Military Exposition Sept. 19-21 aboard Marine Corps Base Quantico.

The annual event showcases the latest innovations in military equipment and systems, designed specifically to address the evolving, expeditionary needs of the Marine Corps. During the three-day event, members of industry, military leaders and Marines will have the opportunity to interact with MCSC and Program Executive Officer Land Systems, and experience some of the systems and technology used by Marines in the fleet.


The Target Handoff System Version 2 is one of many pieces of equipment Marine Corps Systems Command will display at Modern Day Marine Military Exposition Sept. 19-21 aboard Marine Corps Base Quantico. THS V.2 is a portable system designed for use by dismounted Marines to locate targets, pinpoint global positioning coordinates and call for close air, artillery and naval fire support using secure digital communications. (USAF Photo by SSgt Joe Laws)

Sponsored by the Marine Corps League, the event is intended to nurture the intellectual energy and creativity that will enable the Corps to lead tactical and operational innovation.

“This vital and unique expo plays a large part in helping us communicate to industry about the future acquisition of military equipment, systems, services and technology,” said Brig. Gen. Joseph Shrader, MCSC commander. “Our goal is to emphasize the importance of critical technologies and capabilities MCSC provides to ensure Marines maintain combat readiness.”

On Sept. 19, MCSC will conduct a Planning Brief to Industry, and PEO LS will present a science and technology brief. MCSC’s Office of Small Business Programs will also conduct small business training sessions. MCSC will also provide interactive displays at the expo to boost visibility for the command and its system capabilities to key decision makers and industry leaders.

The event will also provide attendees an interactive experience with vehicles, weapons systems and other technologies used by Marines. Some of these items will include:

* Ground Radios
* Personal Protective Equipment
* Indoor Simulated Marksmanship Trainer III
* Target Handoff System Version 2
* Individual Water Purification System

“We look forward to seeing our industry partners and fellow Marines at Modern Day Marine, and sharing more about how Marine Corps Systems Command equips Marines and advances the warfighting effectiveness and readiness of the Marine Air Ground Task Force,” Shrader said.

For more information and a full schedule of events, visit the MDMME website.

Amtrackers Get Their Boom Back

Sunday, August 27th, 2017

By Kaitlin Kelly, MCSC Office of Public Affairs and Communication | Marine Corps Systems Command

MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO, Va. — Assault Amphibian Battalions across the Marine Corps are beginning to receive an upgraded mine clearance capability following a series of improvements to make it safer and more efficient to operate.

Known as the MK-154 Mine Clearance System, it is the only amphibious vehicle breaching capability in the Department of Defense that can penetrate coastal defenses with explosive obstacle breaching on land or water.

“The MK-154 was deadlined four years ago after the loss of a Marine ?during a training event,” said Robert Davies, a Safety official with Marine Corps Systems Command. “While certainly the last four years have been spent making the system more reliable and driving down the cost of maintenance, the big driver for the past four years was to ensure that we put out a system that was vastly safer.”


U.S. Marines with 3rd Assault Amphibian Battalion, 1st Marine Division, fire a MK-154 Launcher Mine Clearance on Camp Pendleton, Calif., June 23, 2017. Marine Corps Systems Command has reengineered the MK-154 with a new hydraulic and electrical system that makes the capability safer, more reliable and cheaper to maintain. (US Marine Corps photo by LCpl Maritza Vela)

Since then, the MK-154 has been reengineered with a new hydraulic and electrical system that makes the capability safer, more reliable and cheaper to maintain.

The upgraded MK-154 Mod 1 includes a self-bleeding hydraulic system and a test system that lets operators know it is safe to fire, according to Capt. Anthony Molnar, project officer for the MK-154/MK-155 at MCSC.

“Before the enhancements, it was difficult to employ the MK-154 due to intrusion of air into the hydraulic system. Air intrusion into the hydraulic system would render it inoperable,” said Molnar, who is also a combat engineer officer.

AAV crewman would have to conduct a lengthy “bleeding” of the hydraulic system in order to push the air out and operate the system. The legacy system also had expensive custom parts and some of the subsystems were antiquated. The legacy MK-154 was fielded in the early 1980s and has been in service in the Marine Corps over 30 years.

“With the upgraded hydraulic system, the MK-154 can operate with air in the hydraulic lines and self-bleed any air out during operation of the system,” said Molnar. “This makes the new system more reliable and reduces time needed to prepare for missions.”

Another new feature is the addition of a capacitor bank to the power distribution box. When the MK-154 is turned on, a crewman will use the AAV power to charge these capacitors. Once charged, the capacitors are used as a backup power source. This makes the new system safer for Marines because it can be fired using the backup power source if the AAV loses power, Molnar said.

Additionally, a new test box and test firing system were added to test the firing circuits of the electric system. The test box and test system are used to simulate live ordnance when plugged into the electric system. Prior to loading live ordnance, AAV crewman plug in the test system and cycle through the firing sequences as if live ordnance were loaded. During this test, the test box will verify that the MK-154 firing circuitry is safe by the illumination of green lights. If there is a fault in the firing circuitry, the test box will indicate a fault with a red light.

“The benefit of this new test box and system is that if there is a misfire during the actual employment of the demolition charges, the AAV crewman knows there is an issue with the ordnance and not the MK-154,” said Molnar. “This allows them to troubleshoot faster and safely complete their missions.”

The test box will fire circuits of the rockets and the linear demolition charges through this system. Marines then cycle through the firing sequence of all the rockets and line charges through the test box, verifying that there are no faults in the firing circuitry.

In all, 47 systems are being fielded across the Corps, primarily to Assault Amphibian Battalions. Fielding is expected to be completed by the end of fiscal year 2018.

“This piece of equipment is giving the [Marine Air-Ground Task Force] the ability to clear the way for amphibious landing on contested beaches,” said Molnar. “These upgrades provide increased efficiency and safety while also making Marines more lethal in combat.”

Marine Corps Explores Deploying 3D Mobile Fab Labs

Wednesday, August 16th, 2017

CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. —
The Marine Corps is looking to make additive manufacturing as expeditionary as the operating forces using it.

The X-FAB—which stands for expeditionary fabrication—facility is a self-contained, transportable additive manufacturing lab that can deploy with battalion-level Marine maintenance units. The 20-by-20-foot shelter is collapsible for easier transport, and houses four 3-D printers, a scanner and computer-aided design software system that make quick work of replacement and repair part fabrication.

IMG_0295

Marine Corps Systems Command and Marine Corps Installations and Logistics teamed up with machinists from the 2nd Maintenance Battalion at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, in July to conduct a field user evaluation, or FUE, of a prototype X-FAB. The evaluation will continue through Sept. 1, enabling Marines to test the technology and provide feedback on its capabilities to officials in the requirements and acquisition communities.

“Additive manufacturing is perfectly suited for the machinist community’s mission,” said Ed Howell, program manager for Supply and Maintenance Systems at MCSC. “We don’t know where the technology will take us, but this is a great opportunity to find out what Marines think about it and explore the viability of additive manufacturing for the C7912 Shop Equipment, Machine Shop.”

Shop Equipment, Machine Shop—also known as SEMS—is a deployable shelter equipped with a milling machine, lathe and other tools to quickly repair damaged vehicle parts, weapons and other equipment. The concept is to field X-FAB as a complementary capability for Corps’ intermediate-level maintenance shops that already use SEMS.

In addition to providing an expeditionary additive manufacturing capability, X-FAB can potentially reduce the maintenance battalion’s logistics footprint by eliminating the need to transport large amounts of spare parts, said Master Sgt. Carlos Lemus, staff noncommissioned officer in charge of the Additive Manufacturing and Innovation Cell with 2nd Maintenance Battalion.

“X-FAB will also enable us to better support Marines by getting platforms back in the fight faster,” said Lemus, who took part in the FUE. “We are looking to exploit this capability, because it has the potential to cut out the time it takes to order and receive parts; instead of waiting weeks or a month for a part, our machinists can get the part out by the end of the day.”

X-FAB gives Marines a way to innovate, and make and create their own solutions and ideas—a unique capability that is not available to forward-deployed Marines now, said Lt. Col. Howie Marotto, Additive Manufacturing lead at Marine Corps Installations and Logistics.

“In a contested environment where ships cannot easily land, or airplanes cannot necessarily fly in and deliver goods, Marines need a way to support themselves—at least temporarily,” Marotto said. “The deployable X-FAB would give them another outlet to supply themselves until the regular logistics or supply chain can support them. In some cases, they can even create a capability they didn’t have before, like 3-D-printed drones.”

The X-FAB shelter runs on generator or shore power, and takes a team of four Marines two to three hours to set up. It weighs about 10,500 pounds fully equipped, and for now can be transported via a commercial flatbed truck. Future testing will explore transportability options with Marine Corps vehicles, said Ted Roach, a program analyst in MCSC’s Supply and Maintenance Systems.

Today, X-FAB is purely experimental and exploratory, funded by Department of Defense research and development dollars, Roach said. Throughout the course of the FUE, MCSC will solicit feedback from Marines on everything from the size and layout of the shelter, and capability of the printers and software, to the quality of the printing materials and finished products. That feedback will be used to improve the equipment for future evaluations and inform the acquisition strategy for X-FAB.

Future efforts for X-FAB experimentation will include incorporating it into joint exercises and deploying it aboard ship to explore options for shipboard integration, Roach said.

“We plan to integrate X-FAB into various environments and see what’s within the realm of possibilities,” he said. “With additive manufacturing, you’re only limited by the size of your printer and your imagination.”

By Monique Randolph, MCSC Office of Public Affairs and Communication | Marine Corps Systems Command

USMC Issues Notice of Intent To Sole Source Purchase Up To 50,814 M27 IAR From H&K

Sunday, August 13th, 2017

Back in February, MARCORSYSCOM issued an RFI to industry seeking companies capable of manufacturing the 5.56mm NATO M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle, designed by German manufacturer Heckler & Koch and based on their HK416 rifle. Based on internal evaluations, the Marine Corps had determined that it wanted to expand use of the M27 within the rifle squad. Released under the guise of “market research”, “Request for Information (RFI) M67854-17-I-1218 For Marine Corps Systems Command (MARCORSYSCOM), Quantico, VA Infantry Automatic Rifle (IAR)” was used to create a a sole-source “Justification and Approval” in order to purchase the rifles directly from manufacturer H&K without going for an open solicitation. Although several companies who manufacture 416 clones answered the RFI, MARCORSYSCOM evaluated those submissions, and determined that only H&K was capable of producing the weapon they had adopted as the M27.

Late last week, MARCORSYSCOM released Notice of Intent to Sole Source – M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle (IAR). Based on that earlier RFI, it found only one Responsible Source (based on (FAR 6302.1 (a)(2)(ii)) and intends to solicit and negotiate with Heckler & Koch (H&K), for up to 50,814 – M27 Infantry Automatic Rifles (IAR).

Companies who still feel they can meet the Marine Corps’ needs may submit a capability statement, proposal, or quotation, which shall be considered by the agency, only if received by the closing date and time of this notice. A determination not to compete the proposed requirement based upon the responses to this notice is solely within the discretion of the Government. They’ve got until 08/28/2017 to state their case.

Some of you may remember that RFI, which specified 11,000 rifles. Many attempted mental gymnastics to explain how just 11,000 rifles could possibly be enough to equip the Marine Corps. However, I maintained that the figure was just a nice round number, based on H&K’s annual production capacity from a study performed during the initial M27 purchase. Based on the scuttlebutt I was hearing, I knew the actual number would be much higher. While 50,000 guns isn’t enough to pure fleet the Marines, it does support the premise, “Every Marine might be a Rifleman, but every Marine isn’t an Infantryman.” These are going to select Marines. Perhaps they’ll buy more down the road. Remember, it did take a long time to transition from M16s to M4s.

With the US Army just releasing their own solicitation for ~50,000 examples of 7.62mm Interim Combat Service Rifle, and a 417 variant being a favorite after adoption of the G28 as the Compact Semi Auto Sniper System and the ensuing directed requirement for 6,069 rifles in the Squad Designated Marksman role, it puts H&K in an interesting position. They’ve won the French Army’s rifle program with the 416, developed and are offering the 433 for the German Bundeswehr’s G36 replacement, and now face production of over 50,000 M27s for the Marines. That’s a lot of requirement for H&K’s factory in Oberdorf, Germany. I’m not saying they can’t do it, but delivery expectations for customers will have to be very carefully managed. Some in industry have posited that this Marine solicitation will take them out of the ICSR running. Time will tell.

For those of you under the impression that H&K as-yet-uncompleted factory in Columbus, Georgia will be used to manufactured CSASS, SDMR, IAR or ICSR, it won’t. As of right now, H&K’s vision is that factory will not be used to build defense products.

The Marine Corps is modernizing its service rifle to the M27, a fulfillment of a plan many feel was set in motion when it was first selected as a squad-level replacement for the M249 in 2010.

Marine Corps Is Looking At Commercially Available Suppressors, Issues Sources Sought Notice To Industry

Thursday, August 10th, 2017

Last week, the Marine Corps Systems Command (MARCORSYSCOM) issued a Sources Sought Notice, often also referred to a Request For Information (RFI) to industry for commerically available suppressors for the 5.56mm NATO M4, M4A1, and M27. The RFI is an important step in developing a realistic requirement which leads to a solicitation and eventually, procurement.

Marine Gunner Christian Wade (seen above) has been a big advocate of suppressing Marine weapons, even producing videos to educate Marines of their true capabilities. It’s good to see the Marines catching up with his vision.

They’ve certainly done their homework and have developed quite a list of what they are looking for. Additionally, they are keeping their options open, stating that future procurement quantities of suppressors could span between 18,000 and 194,000.

According to the RFI, at a minimum, suppressors should meet the following requirements:

1. The suppressor should be capable of detachment/attachment and disassembly/ reassembly by an operator in the field without the use of special tools for normal care and cleaning.

2. Suppressor should enable a noise level of 139 decibels or lower at either of the shooters ears.

3. Suppressor should be a design that minimizes the change in the host rifle internal operating system dynamics.

4. Suppressor may be of the over the barrel, or flush mount design and should not be longer than 20″ total barrel length (threshold), 18″ (objective).

5. Suppressor should be of the quick detachable design. A special muzzle device may be attached (by a unit Armorer) to the OEM weapon in order to facilitate installation and removal by an operator.

6. Must be able to withstand the sustained rate of the M27 IAR (capable of a rate of fire of 36 rounds per minute for 16 minutes, 40 seconds with firing starting at ambient temperature for a 600 round load).

7. The entire suppressor and muzzle device should weigh no more than 18 oz.

8. The use of the suppressor should not increase the dispersion of each respective weapon. It is acceptable for the weapon to experience a repeatable shift in the zero between unsuppressed and suppressed operating modes, but that shift should not exceed 3 MOA for each respective weapon.

9. The suppressed weapon should retain its dispersion through the life of the barrel (objective of 24,000 rounds)

10. The suppressor system is not required to have an internal projectile pathway which is the usual industry standard for a 5.56mm diameter round. The internal bullet channel may be larger than is typical of current suppressor designs. In other words, the suppressor may be able to be employed on multiple calibers (i.e. A059 Ball, AB49, AC12, AB57 etc.) without any modification to the suppressor. This attribute not only facilitates future caliber/weapon capabilities, but could also mitigate baffle strikes.

11. Suppressor should function with all Department of Defense Identification Code (DODIC) 5.56 mm ammunition, including A059 Ball, A063 Tracer, A080 Blank, AA33 Ball, AA53 Ball Special Match, AA69 Armor Piercing, AB49 Ball Carbine barrier, AC12 and AB57 Enhanced Performance Round.

12. Suppressor should not require permanent configuration changes to the weapon system.

13. Suppressor should not inhibit the mounting or operation of the M203 or M320 grenade launchers (objective).

14. Suppressor should not require the addition of a gas mitigating charging handle.

15. Should be able to accept a suppressor sleeve in order to reduce thermal signatures and mitigate operator burns.

16. All suppressor external surfaces should have a dull, low-reflective finish (to include pins, bolts, lanyards, sight posts, etc.). The external color of the system should be consistent with current camouflage colors and patterns.

18. The suppressor material should be able to accept approved USMC paint (e.g. rattle-can spray paint).

19. Suppressor should be resistant to corrosion, abrasion, impacts and chemicals, including standard Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) decontaminants.

20. The suppressor should resist maritime corrosion and/or effects of carbon/copper/lead fouling.
• MIL-L-46000C – Lubricant, Semi-fluid (Automatic Weapons)
• MIL-PRF-372D – Cleaning Compound, Solvent (Bore of Small Arms and Automatic Aircraft Weapons)
• MIL-PRF-14107D – Lubricating Oil, Weapons, Low Temperature
• MIL-PRF-63460D – Lubricant, Cleaner and Preservative for Weapons and Weapons Systems

22. The suppressor should not require a more frequent cleaning schedule than the weapon system.

23. The system, with suppressor attached should continue to operate and safely function after exposure to blowing dust, mud, salt fog, rain, and icing/freezing rain environments as specified in US Army Development Test Operations Procedure (TOP) 3-2-045 (Small Arms – Hand and Shoulder Weapons and Machineguns) dated Sep 2007.

24. The system, with suppressor attached should be able to withstand the shock from a user performing individual movement techniques in combat, and the vibrations of being transported in standard military aircraft and ground vehicles as loose cargo, without degradation of performance.

25. The system, with suppressor attached should continue to safely function after being dropped in any orientation from a 1.7 meter height onto a smooth concrete or steel surface at temperatures ranging from -25º Fahrenheit (F) to 140º F. The addition of the suppressor on the weapon system should not result in a discharge when dropped from this height.

26. The system, with suppressor attached should safely function through a temperature range of -25º F to +140º F without degradation of performance.

27. In addition to the suppressor, request information on the ability of industry to provide a BFA type suppressor (that looks like, operates like and weighs the same as the live fire suppressor). This BFA type suppressor should be capable of catching a live 5.56mm round. This BFA suppressor should also be easily distinguished as a training device only.

Those interested in providing information to MARCORSYSCOM have until September 6th.  Visit www.fbo.gov for full details. 

Marine Corps to Deliver Reinforced Pack Frames as Early as 2018

Thursday, August 3rd, 2017

MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO, Virginia —
Grunts know a good ruck frame has got to last. That’s why a project team at Marine Corps Systems Command has developed a more durable pack frame; one that will better support the U.S. Marine Corps Pack that has been fielded to the operating forces since 2011.

The operational force will soon begin receiving a stronger, more durable pack frame designed to endure extreme temperatures, as well as wear and tear. The reinforced U.S. Marine Corps Pack Frame provides the same form, fit and function as the current frame, with stronger materials for both horizontal and vertical load-bearing support. These improvements were made in response to feedback from Marines who reported pack frame failures in extreme cold weather environment. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Bryan Nygaard)

The operational force will soon begin receiving a stronger, more durable pack frame designed to endure extreme temperatures, as well as wear and tear. The reinforced U.S. Marine Corps Pack Frame provides the same form, fit and function as the current frame, with stronger materials for both horizontal and vertical load-bearing support. These improvements were made in response to feedback from Marines who reported pack frame failures in extreme cold weather environment. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Bryan Nygaard)

The reinforced U.S. Marine Corps Pack Frame provides the same form, fit and function as the legacy frame, but with stronger materials for both horizontal and vertical load-bearing support.

“At Marine Corps Systems Command we continually monitor progress and work to identify new ways to increase performance and durability of the pack system,” said Capt. Jolanta Krempin, a project officer for Infantry Combat Equipment. “The Marine is at the center of everything we do and their feedback is always considered with acute interest regarding acquisition programs and capabilities.”

The acquisition command first learned of pack frames issues back in 2013, when Marines from School of Infantry-West noted a small number of frames were breaking. The program office proactively began rigorous laboratory testing on a reinforced pack frame, and then tested it with Recon units to assess its durability during airborne operations. Results were positive, said a program official.

Additional legacy pack frame breakages were reported during the winter of 2015 and 2016, as Marines participated in cold weather training at the Mountain Warfare Training Center in California, and coalition exercises in Norway. According to feedback from Marines, there were issues with legacy pack frames becoming brittle and snapping.

To assess the reinforced frame’s durability in arctic environments, MCSC flew in a half a dozen program officials last winter, who handed out dozens of reinforced frame prototypes to members of a unit deployed to Norway.

“We took the feedback we got and used it to inform how we could best reinforce the pack frame, while avoiding substantial weight increase or changes in fit and form,” said Mackie Jordan, ICE engineer.

Currently, MCSC is conducting additional environmental and field testing for a more comprehensive evaluation of the reinforced frame’s performance in extreme-cold temperatures. Testing will also investigate other causes of the legacy frame’s failures to mitigate potential issues with the reinforced frame.

“The reinforced frame is being tested in both constant cold temperature environments, as well as changing temperature environments,” said Jordan. “Future testing may include hot-to-cold/cold-to-hot testing to simulate rapid temperature changes during jump operations.”

During testing, frames will be subjected to an extreme cold temperature of 0° +/- 2° Fahrenheit for a period of one week. For each test, the frame will, at a minimum, be assessed for cracking, fatigue, or stress marks and cracking noises during flexibility testing.

Fielding of the reinforced frames is planned to begin in fiscal year 2018. Over time, as legacy frames meet a to-be-determined “expiration date,” they will be replaced with the reinforced frames, eliminating issues related to aging.

By Emily Greene, MCSC Office of Public Affairs and Communication | Marine Corps Systems Command

Gunner’s Fact Or Fiction – Does The Marine Pack Frame Hold Up?

Monday, July 31st, 2017

There's been a lot of scuttlebutt about the integrity of the Marine Corps' pack frame. If you tell a Marine he can't break something, he's going to prove you wrong and then tell his buddies how to do it as well. But, this time MARCORSYSCOM is one step ahead, as Gunner Christian Wade demonstrates in this video.

Marine Corps’ Acquisition Command Gives Congresswoman Insider View of Newest Gear

Monday, July 24th, 2017

MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO, Virginia— Marine Corps Systems Command welcomed U.S. Congresswoman Niki Tsongas to the Gruntworks Squad Integration Facility aboard Marine Corps Base Quantico July 11. During her visit Tsongas received an insider view of advancements in personal protective equipment and load bearing equipment for Marines.

Massachusetts Congresswoman Niki Tsongas joins Marine Corps Systems Command acquisition experts aboard Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia, July 11, for a sneak peek at the latest gear for the 21st Century Marine. In a series of ongoing efforts, the Corps and the Army are collaborating to develop, test and deliver ever-better capabilities for Marines and Soldiers. From left: Brig. Gen. Joseph Shrader, MCSC commander; Lt. Col. Chris Madeline, program manager for Infantry Combat Equipment; Rep. Tsongas; and Mackie Jordan, an engineer in PM ICE. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Emily Greene)

Raised in a military family herself, Tsongas represents the Massachusetts Third District. She is also a senior member of the House Armed Services Committee, and has been serving as the highest ranking Democrat on the largest HASC subcommittee, the Tactical Air and Land Forces Subcommittee (TAL), since the beginning of 2017. The TAL Subcommittee is responsible for overseeing and authorizing the research, development, production and procurement of a large segment of the resources and equipment used by the military services. Rep. Tsongas has led the push for modernized body armor and is working to support military innovation, particularly when it comes to lightening the load for the Warfighter.

"The Marine Corps is always looking to improve on current equipment to make it lighter, provide additional capability, and make it fit better," said LtCol Christopher Madeline, program manager for Infantry Combat Equipment at MCSC. "It was important to us to provide Congresswoman Tsongas an interactive experience with our newest gear so she has a more intimate understanding of our capabilities."

The Marine Corps is collaborating with the Army in a series of efforts to develop, test and deliver enhanced capabilities for Marines and Soldiers. As part of these efforts MCSC is changing the sizing of clothing, uniforms, and personnel protective and load bearing equipment to provide better fit, function and form for Marines, Madeline said.

Plate Carrier Generation III: The Marine Corps and Army are closely aligned to ensure uniforms and personal protective equipment properly fit female and male service members in order to accommodate every individual Marine and Soldier. The services are partnering to develop the PC Gen III, a service-common vest that will provide better fit, comfort and mobility. The new prototype reduces the length of the protective vest by 1.25 inches; provides sports-graded shoulder straps to improve fit; and is about 23 percent lighter than previous models. The new sizes will provide small-stature Marines with a better fit and reduce the weight associated with wearing a larger plate.

Enhanced Combat Helmet: In May 2017, the Marine Corps awarded a contract to procure an additional 84,000 ECHs. Since 2014, Marines had only been issued the ECH prior to deployment. This purchase will enable Marines to use the helmet during training as well, eliminating the need to trade helmets before and after deployments. The Marine Corps currently manages three ballistic helmets but the future vision is a single helmet for all operating forces, which greatly simplifies logistics considerations and increases cost savings. Also used by the Army and Navy, the ECH provides the most ballistic protection beyond any other Department of Defense helmet. It exploits lightweight material technology to provide enhanced ballistic protection against select small arms and fragmentation. Fielding will begin in the spring of 2018, allowing Marines to train with the same equipment they use in combat.

Marine Corps Pack System: After extensive cold weather testing earlier this year, the Corps is working to re- enforce the frame of the pack system Marines use to carry equipment and gear on their backs. Although the frames were previously tested at temperatures ranging from -40 degrees to 140 degrees Fahrenheit, in accordance with North Atlantic Treaty Organization standards, it was found that real-world artic conditions caused the frames to become brittle and snap in extreme cold. During the test period, more than half a dozen MCSC experts worked to solicit feedback from Marines using the packs in order to identify how to improve the equipment.

MCSC is planning additional environmental and field testing for a more comprehensive evaluation of the reinforced frame’s performance in extreme cold temperatures. The testing will also determine additional root causes of the legacy frame failures, such as material aging and increased loads, to mitigate potential issues with the reinforced frame after fielding.

During Tsongas’ visit, MCSC experts briefed the congresswoman on the evolution of Marine Corps personal protective and load bearing equipment, allowing her to try on the PC GEN III, ECH and Marine Corps Pack System. Tsongas also received a behind-the-scenes demonstration of how engineers and specialists analyze and assess body types for equipment development.

“Since being elected to Congress, I have sought to ensure that our men and women in uniform are outfitted with the best life-saving equipment,” said Congresswoman Tsongas. “I appreciate the opportunity to visit Marine Corps Systems Command to see firsthand how they are seeking to improve the personal protective equipment issued to Marines. I look forward to continuing to work with the Marine Corps and the joint services to continue advancements in this most important equipment category.”

SSD Comments: While fielding of the Enhanced Combat Helmet is finally underway, an upgrade to the plate carrier shown is unfunded. Additionally, while much ado has been made about broken Pack Frames, investigation has revealed few actual breakages and those were under questionable circumstances.