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Marine Corps Awards OTAs to Assess Handheld Targeting Capabilities

Friday, December 14th, 2018

MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO, Va. —
Marine Corps Systems Command has awarded four Other Transaction Authorities to assess industry’s capability to produce a Next Generation Handheld Targeting System that is compact, rugged and lightweight.

The use of OTAs were approved by Congress in 2016 as a procurement method to pay for prototypes and to use nontraditional defense companies to spur innovation.

The OTAs were awarded to BAE Systems, Elbit Systems of America, Fraser Optics and Northrop Grumman Systems Corporation. The four companies will explore possibilities focused on the following criteria:

-The system’s overall ergonomics for supporting forward deployed, foot mobile users
-Target recognition, location and designation ranges during day and night operations
-The ability to integrate the system with the Target Handoff System Version 2 to view and manipulate target information
-Technological maturity, manufacturability and value engineering
-Sustainability at the operational user level

The Next Generation Handheld Targeting System, or NGHTS, is a single, lightweight, man-portable system that enables Marines to quickly acquire targets; perform guidance of against targets; and generate target location data during combat operations.

“During the first phase, the four awarded companies will explore potential system capabilities and provide Marine Corps Systems Command with an in-depth study of the best solution for our Marines at the best price,” said Megan Full, contract specialist supporting Program Manager Fires at MCSC. “We will collect the findings by the second quarter of fiscal year 2019 and choose one or more vendors to move onto phase two where they will develop and demonstrate prototypes.”

Currently, the Marine Corps uses four legacy systems: the Portable Lightweight Designator Rangefinder, Joint Terminal Attack Controller, Laser Target Designator and Thermal Laser Spot Imager. The intent is for NGHTS to replace all four systems.

“For the last four years, we have worked diligently to explore an option that condenses the legacy versions into one lightweight system with a reliable power supply that is rugged enough to throw onto a Marine’s pack,” said Jeff Nebel, Fire Support Coordination Team lead, PM Fires.

“The NGHTS will combine all of the legacy capabilities into one system that is compatible with both current and future fire support systems, and will support the Marine Corps for the next 15 to 20 years.”

“The NGHTS will be an important advancement because it is planned to reduce the current weight of the laser designation and laser spot imaging capability by 60 percent, which will increase the mobility and lethality of our fire support-focused Marines,” said Maj. Nathan Morales, Targeting Systems project officer, PM Fires. “This capability is focused on our ability to fight in the compartmentalized terrain outlined in the Marine Operating Concept.”

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

Armor Express Wins Competitive Soft Armor Contract Award to Supply Gen III Ballistics to the U.S. Marine Corps with a Maximum Value of $59.4 Million

Wednesday, October 31st, 2018

CENTRAL LAKE, MI, October 30, 2018 – Central Lake Armor Express, Inc. (“Armor Express”), a leading manufacturer and distributor of high-performance armor solutions, today announced that it has been awarded a multi-year, firm-fixed-price, indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract from the Marine Corps Systems Command (Contract #: M67854-19-D-1509). The contract was competitively procured as a total small business set-aside, with a potential value of $59.4 million. Under the terms of the award, the Company will provide up to 65,469 Plate Carrier Generation III – Soft Armor Inserts and data reports, with production expected to be completed by October 2023.

Jim Henderson, Chief Executive Officer of the holding company that owns both Armor Express and KDH Defense Systems stated, “It is our extreme honor to be chosen by the U.S. Marine Corps for this prestigious award, and we thank them for the trust they have placed in us. We also commend ongoing efforts by the U.S. Armed Forces to develop lighter body armor systems, while improving the modularity and flexibility of plate carriers deployed in the field. It is the servicemen and women who ultimately benefit, and all of us at Armor Express and KDH Defense Systems, stand ready to deliver.”

Mr. Henderson added, “With the recent contract extensions KDH received for the Modular Scalable Vest and Blast Pelvic Protection, along with this most recent ballistic protection award for Armor Express, we have secured over $140.0 million of potential business with the U.S. Armed Forces over the past two months. Working in tandem with our supply chain and technology partners, it remains our goal to provide all customers with the most advanced, lightweight and comfortable protection, supported by unparalleled delivery and service.”

The Company intends to leverage the manufacturing capabilities of KDH Defense Systems and will produce the ballistic armor at KDH’s state-of-the-art manufacturing facility in Eden, North Carolina.

www.armorexpress.com

USMC Awards Vertical Protective Apparel $62 Million Contract For Gen III Plate Carriers

Thursday, September 27th, 2018

Yesterday, the US Marine Corps awarded Vertical Protective Apparel, LLC, of Shrewsbury, New Jersey, a $62,612,464 firm-fixed-price, indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract to produce and deliver the PC Gen IIIs. A maximum quantity of 225,886 will be delivered, and the work will be completed by September 2023.

“The legacy carrier fit the span of the Marine Corps, but this new system is more tailorable to fit Marines of various sizes with three new smaller-stature options,” said Flora “Mackie” Jordan, body armor engineer for the Infantry Combat Equipment Team at MCSC. “We wanted to give as much mobility back to Marines as possible by reducing the weight and bulk of the vest without decreasing ballistic protection. We were able to reduce the weight of the vest by 25 percent.”

The goal was to lighten the load Marines carry to reduce fatigue and improve their operational capability in the field. A few new features of the PC Gen III contributed to the weight reduction.

Excess material was removed from the shoulders and about an inch-and-a-half was taken from the bottom, which provides better integration with the USMC Pack. The team also chose a laminated laser cut material that only absorbs seven percent of water compared to 70 percent with the legacy system.

“We made sure to get the best system for our Marines, which included choosing the best lightweight soft armor and the best quality when it comes to the cut and sew of the carrier,” said Mackie.

While conducting research, MCSC discovered Marines are eight percent faster when the PC Gen III systems were combined with prototype lightweight plates, compared to the Enhanced Small Arms Protective Inserts. They also found Marines could remove and reassemble the vest in less than three seconds.

“With the old system, it took about seven seconds to take it off, and 10 minutes to reassemble,” said project officer Capt. Frank Coppola, Infantry Weapons at MCSC who helped test the vests. “The new quick release works a hundred times better. It has a vastly improved quick detach system for Marines to act fast while on missions.”

The PC Gen III is less bulky and easier for Marines to move in, especially when working in tight spaces. An inner vest was also added to increase modularity of the system. Marines can adjust it to meet the requirements and environment of their particular mission.

“Our vests have come a long way over the past 15 years, and the reduced weight and increased mobility is huge,” Coppola said. “The fact that we can decrease the size of the vest and still be protected is the key.”

Infantry, school house, and Reconnaissance Marines, along with vehicle crewmen and combat engineers will receive the vests when fielding begins in the third quarter of fiscal year 2019.

Information provided by the MARCORSYSCOM PAO contributed significantly to this report, particularly the quotes from PM-ICE.

USMC Seeks New Lightweight Hard Armor Plates

Wednesday, August 15th, 2018

Marine Corps Systems Command (MCSC), Portfolio Manager (PfM), Ground Combat Element Systems (GCES), Program Manager (PM) Infantry Combat Equipment (ICE) released a sources sought notice seeking information regarding industry’s capability to produce a Berry Amendment compliant lightweight hard armor plate.

For years, the current Enhanced Small Arms Protective Insert (ESAPI) has protected Marines, and other service members from harm, but they are relatively heavy, having been designed well over a decade ago. The Marine Corps wants to leverage advancements in armor protection.

MCSC’s Marine Expeditionary Rifle Squad Team tested a selection of currently available commercial armor plates through the Marine Corps Load Effects Assessment Program course wearing all of their combat gear. MERS discovered that a lightweight hard armor plate in the range they are seeking will increase the mobility of Marines by 8 percent. It is envisioned that these new plates will be used woth the upcoming Plate Carrier Gen III, expected to begin fielding in 2019.

Over the past year, PM ICE conducted an analysis of more than 200 commercial plate designs from 38 different companies to see what type of armor is possible. However, according to the notice, there’s no actual requirement written yet, so it is important that industry respond to this Request for Information in order to inform the requirement.

According to PM ICE, the lightweight hard armor plate should:

– Provide two-shot ballistic protection from non-armor piercing rounds that are currently prevalent in counter-insurgency operations and other low intensity threat environments.
o Rounds primarily fired by sniper rifles will be tested at a velocity expected at 100m-200m standoff.
o One shot will be in the crown location at 0-degrees obliquity; the other shot will be at off-center locations at 30-degrees obliquity.
o Meet back-face deformations less than 58 mm.

– Conform to ESAPI shape and area of coverage.
– Possess a thickness that is the same or less than current ESAPI.
– Possess an areal density of 3.75 pounds/square foot (Objective) to 5.16 pounds/square foot (Threshold).

Additionally, vendors should be able to produce a minimum of 40,000 lightweight armor plates within a year of First Article Test approval, which is expected 180 days after contract award, once the solicitation is released.

Responses are required by 7 September 2018, 12:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time (sic).

Visit www.fbo.gov for full details.

USMC photo and video.

Next Gen Night Vision Binos Increase Survivability for Recon, EOD Marines

Tuesday, June 19th, 2018

MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO, Va.— Marines will have better situational awareness on missions in dark areas thanks to new night vision goggles.

The Binocular Night Vision Goggle II, or BNVG II, is a helmet-mounted binocular that gives operators improved depth perception at night, and uses white phosphor Image Intensification technology to amplify ambient light, with a modular thermal imaging overlay capability. BNVG II helps Marines identify potential buried explosive devices, find hidden objects within foliated areas and safely conduct tasks that require depth perception.

A Marine with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit’s Force Reconnaissance Platoon waits on the flight deck while training in the Pacific Ocean. Marine Corps Systems Command is fielding Force Recon and Explosive Ordnance Disposal Marines greater capability with the Binocular Night Vision Goggle II. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. T. T. Parish)

Marine Corps Systems Command began fielding the BNVG II to Force Reconnaissance and Explosive Ordnance Disposal Marines this spring, and full operational capability is planned for the second quarter of fiscal 2019.

The BNVG II includes a Binocular Night Vision Device and a Clip-on Thermal Imager, or COTI, that attaches to the body of the BNVD with a bracket. The BNVD amplifies the small amount of existing light emitted by stars, the moon’s glow or other ambient light sources, and uses the light to clearly display objects in detail in very dark conditions. The COTI uses heat energy from the Marine’s surroundings to add a thermal overlay which allows the image to be viewed more clearly. It helps Marines with situational awareness in conditions with little to no light.

“The BNVG II helps Marines see enemies at a distance, and uses the COTI to detect ordnance or power sources for an explosive device that give off heat,” said Nia Cherry, program analyst with Infantry Weapons. “The COTI intensifies Marines’ ability to see anything in dark conditions, rain, fog, dust, smoke and through bushes that the legacy binoculars couldn’t.”

The BNVG II is a follow-on to the legacy, battle-proven AN/PVS-15 binocular, but offers more features— such as the COTI—for increased survivability. The BNVD component is a compact, lightweight, Generation-3 Dual Tube Night Vision Goggle with an ergonomic low-profile design. It offers superior situational awareness compared to the AN/PVS-15, utilized by Reconnaissance Marines, and the single-tube AN/PVS-14 Monocular Night Vision Device utilized throughout the rest of the Marine Corps. It mounts to the Enhanced Combat Helmet and may be used individually or in conjunction with the COTI.

“In March, we held an exercise in San Diego where Marines provided positive feedback on their ability to easily maneuver with the goggles,” said Joe Blackstone, Optics Team lead in Infantry Weapons. “The depth perception provided by the BNVG II enhances precision and increases the operator’s survivability while on missions with limited lighting.”

Infantry Weapons falls under Ground Combat Element Systems at MCSC.

Marines To Field On-the-move Communications System This Fall

Friday, June 8th, 2018

MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO, Va. —

Marine Corps Systems Command is improving the way Marines communicate with a reliable and convenient on-the-move system.

The Mobile User Objective System, or MUOS, is a narrowband satellite communication system that uses commercial cell phone technology to increase access to voice and data communication while on the battlefield. The Marine Corps will be the first service to widely deploy the system as it has already fielded thousands of MUOS-capable AN/PRC-117G radios over the previous six years. Ultimately, the firmware within the radios will be updated to support the MUOS waveform and three new antenna kits will be added to support multiple operational configurations.

Marines from the 1st Marine Division test out the Mobile User Objective System at a Field User Evaluation in Camp Pendleton, California. MUOS is a satellite communication system that uses commercial cell phone technology to increase access while on the battlefield. Marine Corps Systems Command will begin fielding MUOS in the fourth quarter of 2018. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Eddie Young)

“MUOS provides several advantages over legacy SATCOM,” said Capt. Shawn Avery, MUOS project officer in Command Element Systems at MCSC. “The most obvious to the operating forces will be the increased accessibility. This will allow us to explore new operating concepts by pushing on-the-move voice and data connectivity to the squad level.”

MUOS is designed to support users who require mobility, higher data rates and improved operational availability. The updated technology in the system offers a more secure and reliable beyond line-of-sight communication capability. The MUOS waveform will be added to the AN/PRC-117G and future multi-channel radios within the Marine Corps inventory.

“Previously, infantry companies had limited access to SATCOM, but now company commanders can employ their Marines beyond line of sight with a higher degree of confidence in maintaining those critical [command and control] links,” said Avery.

The three antenna kits that will be fielded within MUOS include: a traditional directional antenna for better data performance at-the-halt; a dismounted on-the-move antenna which enables voice and data access when mobile; and a vehicular kit that modifies the AN/VRC-114’s to accept MUOS.

MUOS is comprised of a space-based segment, a ground-based segment connected over fiber optic cables between multiple continents, and a software-defined radio terminal capable of running the MUOS waveform.

The new satellites are more robust and have more individual carriers, which allows the signal to be focused on a smaller geographic footprint, Avery said. This improvement enables on-the-move access while improving overall reliability in vegetation, urban environments and other extreme conditions where legacy SATCOM was challenged.

Additional improvements include the ability to roam, similar to a cell phone. Marines can begin in the continental United States, and then deploy and have immediate access to another satellite on the ground providing unmatched operational flexibility.

“The system takes some stress off of the operators, allowing them to walk around on patrol without the range constraints of terrestrial networks,” said Avery. “And in the past, users didn’t have access to the Defense Information System Network over SATCOM. We either had to hold terrain to extend terrestrial links to provide DISN access, which incurs significant operational risk, or lease commercial capabilities which have proven costly. With MUOS, we’re meeting the data exchange requirements of today’s force with equipment that is organic to the Marine Air-Ground Task Force.”

Initial fielding for the MUOS is scheduled for the fourth quarter of 2018, with initial operational capability planned for the first quarter of 2019.

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

USMC Awards Sole Source Contracts For Cold Weather Boots And Socks

Saturday, June 2nd, 2018

MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO, Va. —

Marines will stay warm during ambient cold weather operations with new boots and socks.

Marine Corps Systems Command intends to award sole source purchase orders for two types of Intense Cold Weather Boots and Intense Cold Weather Socks to improve Marines’ performance in cold weather environments. A total of 2,000 boots and 50,000 pairs of socks will be delivered from four vendors by Sept. 28.

“Based on market research, industry days and events such as Modern Day Marine, we narrowed our decision for the orders down to two companies for cold weather boots and two for socks,” said Todd Towles, program analyst for the Clothing and Equipment Team at MCSC.

There are currently no Marine Corps issue boots designed for use in the -20 to 20 degrees Fahrenheit range. The Temperate Weather Marine Corps Combat Boot was designed for a temperature range between 20 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit, and the Extreme Cold Weather Vapor Barrier Boot was designed for a range between -65 to -20 degrees Fahrenheit.

U.S. Marines and Sailors clean up trash before leaving their campsite at Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center in Bridgeport, Calif. Marine Corps Systems Command intends to award sole source purchase orders for two types of Intense Cold Weather Boots and Intense Cold Weather Socks to improve Marines’ performance in cold weather environments. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. James Treviño)

This effort to acquire the cold weather boots and socks will help MCSC evaluate commercial off-the-shelf solutions and offer the potential to reduce or eliminate the current environmental protection gap, said Towles. The socks will have much higher wool content than the polypropylene wool socks Marines currently use. Additionally, the Clothing and Equipment Team is hopeful the new gear will offer increased water repellency, comfort and insulation in extreme cold weather environments.

MCSC’s Program Manager Infantry Combat Equipment will conduct a field user evaluation December 2018 through March 2019. The team will gather input from Marines as they wear the ICWB and ICWS prototypes at the Mountain Warfare Training Center, Fort McCoy and Norway.

Feedback regarding fit, form and function will be collected along with how well both prototypes of the ICWB and ICWS perform in sub-zero temperatures.

“The Army is conducting evaluations with similar boots and socks, so there is potential to have some consistency with our results and products,” said Lt. Col. Chris Madeline, program manager for ICE. “Marines will keep the prototype boots through the duration of testing. Once data is collected, it will inform future acquisition decisions and allow the Corps to purchase boots and socks that bridge the gap between the existing cold weather boots.”

The Clothing and Equipment Team falls under Program Manager Infantry Combat Equipment at MCSC.

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

Editor’s Note: The Intense Cold Weather Sock Contract was awarded to FITS Technologies and Ellsworth & Co. The Intense Cold Weather Boots will come from Belleville Boot Co and Dannebrog Boot Co.

Marine Corps Wants New Military Ski Systems with Universal Bindings

Saturday, May 19th, 2018

Marines and Sailors with Marine Rotational Force-Europe 18.1 ski toward their next objective during a winter warfare training exercise at Haltdalen Training Center, Norway, April 12. The Marine Corps is searching for a new ski system with universal bindings. Marine Corps Systems Command will release a Request for Information to formally conduct market research and inform the contracting strategy. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Gunnery Sgt. Clinton Firstbrook)

MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO, Va. —

The Marine Corps is searching for a new ski system that can withstand harsh conditions during training and cold weather missions.

The goal is to acquire a system with ski sets that are compatible with the Corps’ Extreme Cold Weather Vapor Barrier Boots and the Intermediate Cold Weather Boots, eliminating the need to purchase new specific ski boots. The sets will include the skis, poles and universal bindings.

In order to deliver an over-the-snow capability before the end of fiscal year 2019, Marine Corps Systems Command will release a Request for Information to formally conduct market research and inform the contracting strategy. MCSC will then establish a 5-year Indefinite Delivery Indefinite Quantity contract with an initial order of 1,500 military ski systems with universal bindings.

Currently, the Army’s Program Executive Office Soldier is also evaluating skis with universal bindings, and the Army’s 10th Mountain Division has procured and used similar systems with favorable results.

“When we went to contract the NATO ski system last year, there were delays in procurement,” said Christopher Woodburn, Capabilities Development director of the Deputy Maneuver Branch at Combat Development and Integration. “Because of the Army’s exploration with cold weather equipment, we know there are other sources for a ski system that will satisfy the Marine Corps requirement and offer the capability more rapidly.”

MCSC gathered feedback from Marines at the Mountain Warfare Training Center to ensure the future ski system chosen will meet mission requirements and improve existing cold weather equipment. Marines want a lighter, low-maintenance and easy-to-use system that is also easy to learn for new or intermediate skiers.

“We’ve been talking to Marines at MWTC to make sure the current equipment they have is still viable, and we also made a few updates to the Marine Corps Cold Weather Infantry Kit,” said Capt. Ryan Moore, project officer in Infantry Combat Equipment at MCSC.

The Marine Corps Cold Weather Infantry Kit is comprised of multiple components, including avalanche probes, hatchets, shovels, snow saws, cook sets, thermoses, a tent and anything else Marines need to survive in a cold weather environment. Each kit serves four people and is pulled on a sled by Marines on skis.

The RFI will help MCSC assess possibilities and find a solution to field the ski system to scout snipers, reconnaissance Marines and select infantrymen.

“We are trying to do our due diligence with tax payers’ money to make sure we get the best value, while also pushing out capabilities as quickly as we can to Marines,” said Woodburn.

Infantry Combat Equipment is part of the Ground Combat Element Systems program at MCSC.

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