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Fine-tuning the Corps’ Amphibious Combat Vehicle in Preparation for IOT&E

Friday, October 4th, 2019

MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO, Va. —

Three thousand miles away from the epicenter of Marine Corps Amphibious Combat Vehicle acquisition, a cadre of Marines, civilians and contractors are hard at work completing a logistics demonstration effort on the vehicle.

The logistics demonstration effort—or Log Demo—is one of the last steps the Advanced Amphibious Assault program office at Program Executive Officer Land Systems needs to execute before training Marines in the Operating Forces to use and maintain the vehicle during IOT&E, the integrated operational test and evaluation activities scheduled for next year.

“Log Demo’s main purpose is to verify the validity and accuracy of the ACV’s technical manuals,” said Tommy “TJ” Pittman, Log Demo’s technical manager lead for PM AAA. “We want to make sure that the Marine can do the job, given the technical manual, training and tools [provided to them].”

For the logistics demonstration team, this means individually reviewing and performing nearly 1,500 work package procedures in the Interactive Electronic Technical Manual designed for Marines in charge of vehicle maintenance.

The demo also involves reviewing 125 work packages—spanning over 2,000 pages—in the Electronic Technical Manual designed for Marine ACV operators. The Common Remotely Operated Weapons System—or CROWS—on the ACV also has its own technical manual that the team must verify.

“This is less about our ability to perform the task or our skills as a mechanic, and more about whether the IETM can direct us to do the task properly” said Staff Sgt. Justin Hanush, lead ACV maintenance instructor for Advanced Amphibious Assault program office’s new equipment training team at PEO LS. “We’re painstakingly going through the IETM word-for-word, letter-by-letter, illustrations, everything—to make sure we can do the task as the IETM is written.”

A next-generation technical manual for a next-generation vehicle

The IETM is especially noteworthy because, for the Marine Corps, it’s the first of its kind for ground vehicles.

“I’ve personally worked for 15 years on getting the Marine Corps an interactive electronic tech manual that can be updated within moments,” said Pittman.

As a former Assault Amphibious Vehicle operator, the 24-year Marine Corps veteran has extensive experience operating and maintaining vehicles in the amphibious assault community. Pittman worked with Army Aviation and Missile Command to integrate the ACV’s IETM onto their software system and servers.

The interactive aspect of the technical manual streamlines the diagnostic and troubleshooting process Marines use when performing maintenance on a vehicle. By collaborating with the Army on a virtual manual, the Marine Corps can also reduce the amount of time needed to make updates to the IETM.

In the past, it could take up to a year for the technical manual for the ACV’s predecessor, the Assault Amphibious Vehicle, to be updated, said Hanush. With the introduction of the new IETM software, updates to the technical manual are implemented overnight.

On the ACV operator side, the team is ensuring their technical manual is clearly written so Marines can properly operate the vehicle and provide first-level maintenance on the vehicle if needed, said Sgt. Jarrod Warren, lead ACV operator instructor for the NETT.

“It’s important that the outcomes we reach when going through the ETM are the same outcomes stated in the book,” said Warren. “It’s also important to make sure we can maintain the vehicle at our level and, if not, we know when to bring it up to the maintenance side.”

The importance of meticulously reviewing the technical manuals to ensure the validity and accuracy of the document is not lost on Hanush, who noted, “I could have grandchildren someday who join the Marine Corps, and they could be working off the manual that I’m helping to write.”

Technical manual writing aside, Hanush is appreciative of the dedication of his fellow Marines during Log Demo, saying, “I couldn’t ask for a better group of ACV mechanics. They’re knocking it out of the park.”

One team, one fight, under one roof

Unlike other logistic demonstrations undertaken by the Corps, which typically take place at a contractor’s facility, this one takes place at the Marine Corps’ Amphibious Vehicle Test Branch at Camp Pendleton, California.

The three-month logistics demonstration took more than a year-and-a-half to plan, said Pittman. He said a unique aspect of Log Demo was that the program office, rather than the contractor, planned and created the logistics demonstration plan.

Equally critical to the success of the Log Demo effort are PM AAA’s industry partners, whose participation spans multiple states and continents, and whose roles vary from field service representatives to technical illustrators.

“We have about 65 individuals on the ground here, between the Marines, civilians, BAE, and one foreign representative from Iveco, which is the subcontractor to BAE on the vehicle,” said Pittman. “We have the right people—the writers, the illustrators, the engineers, the Marines, the data collectors, the safety people and the —in one location, which makes communication between the groups so much easier.”

Moving forward to IOT&E

Currently, the Marines on the NETT are the Corps’ uniformed subject matter experts on the ACV. Following Log Demo, Hanush, Warren and the rest of the NETT will use the verified training manuals as their guide to train and prepare Marines for IOT&E.

IOT&E is the program office’s final evaluation of the ACV before fielding the vehicle. During IOT&E, executed by Marine Corps Operational Test and Evaluation Activity, the NETT will take a step back from operating and maintaining the vehicle and instead enable Marines to put the vehicle through its paces.

“IOT&E is sort of like a dress rehearsal for the system,” said Maj. Scott Jennings, a project officer at MCOTEA who will be involved with IOT&E of the ACV. “Marines will operate the vehicle in realistic environments and go on realistic missions so that we can evaluate the operational suitability and effectiveness of the system and see if it does what we want it to do in the way we want to do it.”

Until then, PM AAA’s focus is to ensure the ACV is ready for use. The modernized vehicle brings the Corps’ amphibious assault capabilities back to the forefront and will assist Marines in reestablishing themselves as a naval expeditionary force-in-readiness prepared to operate inside actively contested maritime spaces in support of fleet operations.

“I believe wholeheartedly in the mission these [Marines] do out there because I’ve been there,” said Pittman, who has dedicated over 48 years of his life to the assault amphibious community as an active duty Marine and a civilian. “I believe that we need to give them the best assets that we can possibly put in their hands, to not only save their lives, but to also protect our freedom.”

By Ashley Calingo, PEO Land Systems Public Affairs | Marine Corps Systems Command

Handheld Digital Targeting System Provides Fire and Air Support to Marines

Tuesday, September 17th, 2019

MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO, Va. —

A Marine Corps Systems Command fire support device will be one of several communication technologies demonstrated at Island Marauder 2019.

The Target Handoff System version 2.0 is a lightweight, fire control system that employs commercial off-the-shelf, shock-resistant tablets to perform various targeting functions. The man-portable technology helps ascertain global positioning coordinates and call for fire support.

It allows Marines to use a single system to control close air support as well as artillery, mortars and naval surface fire support missions.

“THSv2 is the digital fire support Program of Record for the Marine Corps,” said Jeff Nebel, Fire Support Coordination team lead at MCSC. “It is a modular equipment suite that provides the warfighter with the capability to quickly and accurately identify and locate targets, and transmit that information digitally to fire support systems or weapons platforms.”

Fielded in fiscal year 2018, THSv2 enables the Marine Air-Ground Task Force to view an updated satellite image of the topography of a location. The technology provides a platform for receiving and manipulating video information. It can also be used as a controller for unmanned and autonomous systems.

“The system decreases the probability of incorrect data transfer of the initial fire request by providing a digital communication link between the observer and fires platform,” said Nebel.

The Corps has leveraged electronic tablets—including the MAGTF Common Handheld—to support the warfighter. Like MCH, THSv2 is software embedded into a tablet. However, MCH is primarily used for situational awareness on the battlefield, while THSv2 feeds information to Advanced Field Artillery Tactical Data System and other fire support and weapons platforms.

THSv2 is interoperable with several other technologies, including the AN/PRC-117 radio, Naval Fire Control System and the Common Laser Range Finder-Integrated Capability. At Island Marauder 2019, Marines will demonstrate the interoperability of THSv2 with other communication systems, including Networking on the Move.

Engineers and analysts for the THSv2 emphasize its significance in completing missions on the battlefield.

“The Target Handoff System version 2.0 is important to the warfighter because it speeds up the kill chain and reduces human error by not requiring targeting information to be passed via voice,” said William Bensch, an analyst for THSv2. “Everything is done digitally.”

Since its fielding, THSv2 has received positive feedback from Marines who participated in various live-fire events and other training. Nebel hopes annual hardware and software updates will make the technology even more useful to the warfighter.

 “It’s a piece of the latest and greatest in cutting edge technology,” said Bensch. “The system is robust enough to be expanded upon. We’re looking to provide the warfighter with the best equipment to engage the enemy faster and more efficiently—and THSv2 does that.”

Story Matt Gonzales, MCSC Office of Public Affairs and Communication | Marine Corps Systems Command

Photos by PFC Taylor W. Cooper

Handheld Tablet Improves Situational Awareness for Marines

Sunday, September 15th, 2019

MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO, Va. —

During Island Marauder 2019, Marines will demonstrate the effectiveness of several Marine Corps Systems Command technologies—including a handheld system that helps the warfighter navigate on the battlefield.

The Marine Air-Ground Task Force Common Handheld is a tablet-based communication system that enhances situational awareness on the battlefield. The device enables dismounted Marines to leverage commercial smart devices to plot and share locations.

The device includes pre-installed tactical applications to eliminate the need to juggle multiple technologies for various capabilities, lightening the load for the warfighter.

“MCH is essentially an interactive tactical mapping program with a GPS navigation software and a chat functionality,” said Maj. Richard Beeson, MCH project officer at MCSC. “The technology feeds the battalion’s current operational picture with real-time friendly force positions and allows this battlespace awareness to be shared down to the squad-leader level.”

The tablet feeds the information into Networking On-the-Move, while simultaneously transmitting it to the Combat Operations Center, where command leaders can use the information to make critical battlefield decisions.

Through MCH, commanders can disseminate orders, graphics and digital data, providing Marines the ability to visualize the commander’s intent and scheme of maneuver.

“It helps Marines to share enemy locations in real-time in an easily understood digital, moving map format,” added Beeson.

MCH enables warfighters to pass messages to one another in real-time—similar to text messaging—allowing the commander to make faster, more effective, decisions. It also assists the warfighter in deciphering whether an explosion was caused by enemy or friendly fire.

“MCH is a Command and Control situational awareness system that gives the squad leader and platoon commander a better understanding of the battlefield to make tactical decisions,” said Justin Meidinger, an engineer for MCH. “This system helps them have a better idea of what is going on around them.”

Earlier this year, the Corps fielded an early release version of the system to Marines. In fiscal year 2020, the warfighter will receive an updated version of the MCH that allows Marines to communicate with one another through several additional joint communication systems.

Later this month at Island Marauder, Marines will demonstrate the effectiveness and interoperability of MCH by linking it with other satellite technologies. The risk-assessment evaluation is intended to reduce miscommunication among Marines who use communication technologies. Beeson raved about the benefits of MCH and how the system supports the warfighter.

“MCH allows for communication, collaboration and coordinating among units,” said Beeson. “It helps everyone to be on same page. MCH increases the digital lethality of Marine infantry squads while reducing the risk of friendly fire.”

 

By Matt Gonzales, MCSC Office of Public Affairs and Communication | Marine Corps Systems Command

Marine Corps Awards Contract for New Night Vision Goggles

Tuesday, September 10th, 2019

MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO, Va. —

Less than 11 months after seeking industry proposals for a new helmet-mounted night vision system, Marine Corps Systems Command has awarded a contract to provide an updated system to Marines.

Harris Corporation of Roanoke, Virginia, was awarded a maximum $249,000,000 firm-fixed-price, indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract Sept. 6, for the purchase of the Squad Binocular Night Vision Goggle system. Approximately 14,000 systems will be delivered, and the work will be completed by September 2024.

The SBNVG combines two systems: a binocular night vision device and enhanced clip-on thermal imager. It is lighter than the current Army/Navy Portable Visual Search devices, or AN/PVS-15. The SBNVG also has improved depth perception, and the ability to detect and recognize targets in extreme low light, in inclement weather and in the presence of obscurants.  

“Additionally, the use of white phosphor provides a greater capability to see at night with more clarity, giving Marines enhanced situational awareness,” said Lt. Col. Tim Hough, program manager for Infantry Weapons at MCSC.

The Corps previously used an existing Defense Logistics Agency contract to procure 1,300 systems to see how an interim solution could best meet the capability requirement.

“We made the investment to procure the 1,300 systems and fielded them to two infantry battalion, so we already had a good, robust understanding of the technology we were chasing,” said Roberto Gonzalez, team lead for Combat Optics at MCSC. “That allowed us to quickly get through the source selection process [for this contract].”  

Using full and open competition, MCSC also realized approximately $70 million in savings across the Future Years Defense Program.  

Marine infantry units will be the first to receive the new night vision goggles when fielding begins in the spring of 2020.

“Awarding this SBNVG contract and fielding these systems to the warfighter is one more step toward increasing the command and control, lethality and ability of the infantry squad to overwhelm our adversaries,” said Hough.

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

U.S. Marine Corps photos by Joseph Neigh

Marine Corps Announces Winners of Elbow, Knee Pads Prize Challenge

Friday, September 6th, 2019

MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO, Va. —

Marine Corps Systems Command completed its second of a series of prize challenges in August, awarding cash to two businesses for their innovative ideas in creating knee and elbow pad protection for the warfighter.

The Knee and Elbow Pad Equipment Challenge called for innovators to submit ideas for replacing the Corps’ current knee and elbow padding. From May to July, MCSC received creative prototypes from various organizations—but two companies stood out from the rest.

Team G-Form, known for their padding technology for athletes, was the overall winning team, receiving $4,000. Team Viconic Defense—a Michigan-based company whose technology supports military vehicles—won the innovation prize and took home $1,000.

“We really wanted to explore the innovative market,” said Guy Callahan, the project officer for Cold Weather Clothing and Equipment in MCSC’s Infantry Combat Equipment program office. “The challenge enables new chemistry that affords a greater type of protection for knees and elbows.”

MCSC sought a padding solution to provide greater comfort and blunt-force protection that integrates into the Corps’ uniform, without compromising marksmanship, said Callahan. Based on the physical submissions received, a panel of Marines concluded that Team G-Force demonstrated the greatest overall potential for padding.

G-Form is honored to win Marine Corps Systems Command’s Knee and Elbow Pads Challenge,” said Glen Giovanucci, the company’s chief executive officer. “We pride ourselves in developing the best impact protection that is truly comfortable to wear. This recognition is a testament to the hard work and commitment of our research and development, and factory operations teams.”

Team G-Form’s mission is to provide innovative gear comfortable enough to wear and strong enough to prevent injury. The company is an active participant in the Semper Fi Fund annual event in Grass Valley, California, and will donate their $4,000 prize to this event.

Many of the innovation submissions shared similar concepts. However, the panel decided that Team Viconic Defense offered the most cutting-edge solution and blunt-force protection. The company expressed appreciation for the recognition.

“It’s an honor for Viconic to win the Innovation Prize of the U. S. Marine Corps Knee and Elbow Pad Equipping Challenge,” said J.B. Audi, vice president for Viconic Defense. “Viconic is pleased to partner with the Marine Corps in the goal of better protecting our warfighters.”

Since 2010, the federal government has conducted more than 1,000 challenges and has awarded prizes to everyone from students to small business owners, according to challenge.gov. The Prize Challenge offers to the program office a cost-effective market research vehicle to identify the current market space.

In April, MCSC awarded monetary prizes for ideas to improve the Corps’ helmet retention system.

“These challenges offer some really cool, cutting-edge concepts,” said Callahan. “We get some very creative submissions.”

The competition leveled the playing field for smaller businesses with whom the Corps does not traditionally work, said Callahan. He said prize challenges spark interest in many innovators and give them an opportunity to support the warfighter.

“That is a significant benefit of these challenges,” said Callahan. “It gets your nontraditional market players out in the open.”

The prize challenge winners demonstrated the potential to use nontraditional materials to improve comfort and impact protection. Further research and development is required to determine the best method for integrating improvements into existing knee and elbow pads.

By Matt Gonzales, MCSC Office of Public Affairs and Communication | Marine Corps Systems Command

Marine Corps Issues Pre-Solicitation for Squad Common Optic Contract

Tuesday, August 20th, 2019

Back in May we told you of the Marine Corps’ desire to field a Squad Common Optic for the M27 Infantry Assault Rifle which is becoming the standard weapon for Marines in the Infantry Squad. The Marines envision the SCO as a magnified optic to improve target acquisition and probability of hit P(h) between 0-600 meters (m).  The SCO includes a non-caliber specific reticle, is variable power, and incorporates a user selectable illuminated or non-illuminated aim-point. 

Marine Corps Systems Command (MCSC), Portfolio Manager Ground Combat Element Systems (PfM GCES), Program Manager Infantry Weapon just released a pre-solicitation to industry, which serves as a Warning Order that they plan to open a Full and Open Competitive solicitation for the SCO on or about September 13, 2019 with proposal due date on or about October 21, 2019.

The Corps’ JLTV Achieves Initial Operational Capability

Monday, August 12th, 2019

MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO, Va. —

The Marine Corps’ Joint Light Tactical Vehicle is officially ready to deploy and support missions of the naval expeditionary force-in-readiness worldwide.

Marine Corps Combat Development Command, Combat Development and Integration declared the JLTV program—part of the Light Tactical Vehicle portfolio at Program Executive Officer Land Systems—reached initial operational capability, or IOC, on Aug. 2, nearly a year ahead of schedule.

Photo by Cpl Juan Bustos

“Congratulations to the combined JLTV Team for acting with a sense of urgency and reaching IOC early,” said Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development and Acquisition James Geurts. “Changing the speed in which we deliver, combined with coming in under cost and meeting all performance requirements, is a fine example of increasing Marine Corps capabilities at the speed of relevance which enables our Marines to compete and win on the modern battlefield.”

The JLTV, a program led by the Army, will fully replace the Corps’ aging High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle fleet. The JLTV family of vehicles comes in different variants with multiple mission package configurations, all providing protected, sustained, networked mobility that balances payload, performance and protection across the full range of military operations.

Photo by Cpl Matthew Kirk

“The warfighting capabilities the JLTV provides our Marines far exceed the capabilities offered by its predecessor,” said PEO Land Systems John Garner. “I’m proud of what our team, in collaboration with the Army, has accomplished. Their commitment to supporting the warfighter delivered an exceptional vehicle, ahead of schedule, that Marines will use to dominate on the battlefield now and well into the future.”

Several elements need to be met before a program can declare IOC of a system, which encompasses more than delivery of the system itself. The program office also had to ensure all the operators were fully trained and maintenance tools and spare parts packages were ready.

“IOC is more than just saying that the schoolhouses and an infantry battalion all have their trucks,” said Eugene Morin, product manager for JLTV at PEO Land Systems. “All of the tools and parts required to support the system need to be in place, the units must have had received sufficient training and each unit commander needs to declare that he is combat-ready.”

For the JLTV, this means the program office had to fully field battle-ready vehicles to the Marine Corps schoolhouses—School of Infantry East at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina; School of Infantry West at Camp Pendleton, California; The Basic School at Quantico, Virginia; and the Motor Transport Maintenance Instruction Course at Camp Johnson, North Carolina—and to an infantry battalion at II Marine Expeditionary Force. The program office started delivering vehicles to the schoolhouses earlier this year and started delivering vehicles to the infantry battalion last month.

Photo by Sgt Timothy R. Smithers

On Aug. 2, Lt. Col. Neil Berry, the commanding officer for 3rd Battalion, 8th Marines, notified Morin and his team of the unit’s combat readiness with the JLTV. On Aug. 5, The Director, Ground Combat Element Division at CD&I notified PM LTV of its IOC achievement. The JLTV is scheduled to start fielding to I MEF and III MEF before the end of September.

According to LTV Program Manager Andrew Rodgers, during the post-acquisition Milestone C rebaseline of the JLTV schedule in January 2016, IOC was projected to occur by June 2020.  

Rodgers says that detailed program scheduling, planning and, most importantly, teamwork with stakeholders across the enterprise enabled the program office to deliver the vehicles and reach IOC ahead of schedule.

“It was definitely a team effort, and we built up a really great team,” said Rodgers. “In terms of leadership, our product managers’—both Gene Morin and his predecessor, Dave Bias—detailed focus and ability to track cost, schedule and performance was key. Neal Justis, our deputy program manager, has significant prior military experience working for the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology, so having him on board knowing how to work the Pentagon network was a huge force multiplier.”

Rodgers is quick to note that, although the team has reached IOC, this is really only the beginning of the JLTV’s future legacy.

“We are really at the starting line right now. Our grandchildren and great-grandchildren will see JLTVs in the DOD,” said Rodgers. “We’ll easily still have these assets somewhere in the DOD in the year 2100. Welcome to the start of many generations of JLTVs.”

By Ashley Calingo, PEO Land Systems Public Affairs | Marine Corps Systems Command

Point Blank Enterprises, Inc. Awarded Lightweight Body Armor Insert Contract by the United States Marine Corps Systems Command

Tuesday, June 25th, 2019

POMPANO BEACH, Fla., June 24, 2019 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Point Blank Enterprises, Inc. has been awarded a $215.9 million USD body armor contract by the United States Marine Corps Systems Command (MARCORSYSCOM). The Marine Corps Low Intensity Threat Environment (LITE) body armor insert is a new small arms protective insert that is designed to improve the survivability and mobility of Marines by maximizing ballistic protection at a reduced weight.

“We are honored to be selected by the United State Marine Corps to provide this new lightweight body armor solution. Reducing Marine burden by providing innovative and lightweight armor solutions along with our high quality manufacturing capabilities is our expertise.” said Brian Kopan, Senior Vice President of Engineering and Technology. “Whether we are designing armor systems for vehicles or individual protection equipment, our mission is always focused on saving the life of those that protect us.”

For over 43 years, Point Blank Enterprises, Inc. has been the industry’s leading innovator of advanced products and designs engineered to maximize ballistic protection. The Company has shipped millions of body armor solutions to America’s service men and women, law enforcement professionals, corrections officers, Federal agents, and other key national and international customers. Point Blank will be exhibiting the full range of armor systems at this year’s AUSA Annual Meeting and Symposium in Washington, D.C. 14-16 October 2019.

www.pointblankenterprises.com