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Marine Corps Tactical Systems Support Activity Hosts Testing and Demo Days for XFAB

Saturday, June 12th, 2021

Marine Corps Tactical Systems Support Activity hosted a team of design experts who tested the network connectivity of the portable expeditionary fabrication lab, otherwise known as XFAB, on Camp Pendleton, April 5-9, 2021.

The XFAB 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 five 3D printers, a laser scanner, a laser cutter and a computer design software system that enables Marines to fabricate replacement and repair parts in an expeditionary environment.

“MCTSSA offers a great opportunity to exercise the XFAB on the [Marine Corps Enterprise Network] and capture the messaging traffic and data packing messages in real time,” said Robert Davies, project officer for Fabrication Equipment under the Program Manager for Supply and Maintenance Systems at Marine Corps Systems Command. “The test directors and support staff at MCTSSA were a pleasure to work with.”

The goal of the testing event was to evaluate the connectivity of the Marine Corps’ closed computer network to determine if any adjustments are needed before reaching final operational capability and delivering labs to the Fleet Marine Forces in June 2022.

XFAB has been in development stages for approximately five years. It is designed to provide Marines a way to innovate by creating their own manufacturing tools, parts and signage. This unique capability can be employed in forward-deployed locations when specialty and hard-to-find parts are not readily available.

“MCTSSA is a great place for this kind of testing and demonstration,” said Lt. Col. Michael Liguori, commanding officer of MCTSSA. “Our location makes it easy for fleet units to visit and see the layout of the equipment first-hand. We’re proud to support the Supply and Maintenance Systems program manager and their team as they move closer to fielding this new capability to the operational forces.”

Impact and Implementation

Each lab comes equipped with two Lulzbot TAZ Workhorse 3D Printers, two Markforged X7 3D printers, one 3D Platform 3000 Series Printer, and one Epilog Fusion Pro 32 Laser Cutter and a Quantum FAROArm S 3D laser scanner. The XFAB also comes standard with three laptops, two workstations and one 55-foot LED television screen.

When integrated into a Marine Expeditionary Force, the XFAB will reduce the maintenance battalion’s logistics footprint by eliminating the need to transport large amounts of spare parts.

“As this technology and overall asset is brand new to the FMF, the maintenance community is extremely excited to receive their assets and begin use of the 3D scanning and printing capabilities,” said Davies. “While some FMF units have 3D printers, those assets were procured with unit funds.”

The XFAB capability is an MCSC Program of Record and will be a supported asset in the fleet, which will make integration for deployments much easier, Davies said.

Demo Days

During the testing event at MCTSSA in early April, senior leaders and Marines from 1st Marine Logistics Group, 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Regiment, 3rd Amphibious Assault Battalion and 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing got a first-hand look at the equipment and how they can manufacture parts and products.

The XFAB container runs on generator or shore power, and takes a team of four Marines two-to-three hours to set up and tear down. It weighs about 10,500 pounds fully equipped and can be transported via the Logistics Vehicle System Replacement or a commercial flatbed truck.

A New Tool in the Tool kit for FMF

By design, the XFAB and its components are to be operated by a Marine Machinist (MOS 2161) as their primary duties include support of unit maintenance to include fabrication, repair or modification of equipment. However, the XFAB is composed of several workstations that would require just one Marine to be present to operate the equipment and tools.

Several items can be printed and manufactured, including the detonation cord connector, SABER handgrip removal tool, radio handset covers, M320 hammer strut tool, reinforced high-mobility multipurpose wheeled vehicle door handles and a universal load stud wrench for use with all generators.

“Due to the solid MCEN design from our supporting establishments, Naval Surface Warfare Center Crane and Carderock, we have had no redesign efforts required and have passed all testing while at MCTSSA with no outstanding issues to resolve,” Davies added.

A future design is under development with a more tactical version of XFAB called Tactical Fabrication and will soon approach its fielding decision, Davies added. This system will be slightly limited in capability but will be modular, stored in pelican cases, and is specific to a particular MOS.

The current requirement is to deliver 21 XFAB units. II Marine Expeditionary Force is scheduled to receive the first one sometime in mid-2022.

By Amy Forsythe, Public Affairs Officer, MCTSSA

USMC Modernizing Intel System, Reducing Size

Thursday, June 3rd, 2021

MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO, Va. —

Marine Corps Systems Command is in the process of fielding a modernized version of an intelligence system that provides critical information to commanders on the battlefield.

The Distributed Common Ground/Surface System-Marine Corps is a mobile, secure and integrated intelligence system that Marines can leverage to inform commanders about threats and other information on the battlefield.

“DCGS-MC brings all the information on the battlefield to a central location, where it can then be analyzed to support the commander’s decision-making,” said Gunnery Sgt. Travis Godley, with DCGS-MC at MCSC.

This new version of DCGS-MC comprises updated computer hardware and software connected to the Marine Corps Enterprise Network. The system includes sensors to collect data, antennas to receive information, and workstations for analysts to review info and produce reports.

The modernized technology also includes a geographic intelligence capability that collects satellite imagery and intelligence information. This enables Marines to create maps and other intelligence products to inform the commander’s decision.

“The new DCGS-MC capability is a modern approach for the Marine Corps to perform intelligence tasks,” said Master Sgt. John Phillips, an MCSC representative who contributed to the DCGS-MC project. “This system will ultimately make Marines’ jobs easier.”

MCSC has begun fielding the modernized system to Intel Marines. Phillips projects the first round of fielding to conclude in July 2021 and for the system to be fully fielded by the end of 2022.

Improvements over legacy system

Col. Dave Burton, MCSC’s program manager for Intelligence Systems, pinpointed notable improvements the new DCGS-MC has over the original system.

The first improvement involves weight. The system was designed to provide a flexible hardware and software solution to decrease size and power requirements while increasing the capability of Marine intelligence analysts.

The legacy system, fielded from 2014 to 2016, required multiple hardware, including up to four servers. Burton said the newer DCGS-MC decreases the amount of hardware needed for use, reducing the technology’s size, weight and modularity.

He said a reduction in weight ultimately increases overall efficiency.

“DCGS-MC is in line with the [Commandant’s Planning Guidance] to lighten the load of Marines and modernize the Marine Corps,” said Burton. “Instead of having separate servers for individual programs, you can combine a number of different servers into one.”

The system also enables increased battlefield mobility, an area of focus in 38th Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. David Berger planning guidance. Berger emphasized the importance of employing mobile, operationally relevant and relatively easy-to-sustain capabilities.

“This system provides additional flexibility to support tactical operations as we support Marine operations,” said Thomas Roebuck, MCSC’s product manager for DCGS-MC. “It also provides a much more modern toolset.”

Roebuck said the newer capability also enables users to migrate data to the cloud. He explained that units can leverage the cloud capability to perform various tasks even when disconnected from the enterprise network.

“As we move forward from a technology perspective, [cloud migration capabilities] become increasingly important,” said Roebuck. “That allows the information to freely flow in between the tactical user all the way up to the intelligence community.”

MCSC also ensured that DCGS-MC was interoperable, allowing Marines to exchange critical information with other services, including the Army, Air Force and Navy. Interoperability fosters collaboration and increased communication among the joint forces, said Phillips.

“Not only are we interconnected with the Marine Corps Enterprise Network, but we can also support the joint mission with the Navy because this technology was designed in a way to be interoperable with Navy intelligence systems as well,” said Phillips.

The new DCGS-MC capability is a modern approach for the Marine Corps to perform intelligence tasks. This system will ultimately make Marines’ jobs easier.

Master Sgt. John Phillips, an MCSC representative who contributed to the DCGS-MC project

An expedited acquisition

According to a 2016 report, the average major defense acquisition program that reported between 1997 and 2015 took about seven years from initiation to the start of fielding.

MCSC fielded the updated DCGS-MC just over two years after initiation, as the Marine Corps has been implementing new, more agile methods of acquiring products. The expedited acquisition process puts a significant intelligence capability in Marines’ hands more quickly, said Phillips.

“The command is at a transition point, where we’re looking at more agile methods of acquisition,” said Phillips. “We intentionally pursued this acquisition cycle in a condensed timeline, and the end result will benefit all parties involved.”

Throughout 2020, MCSC held several user evaluation events for the new DCGS-MC. Marines from 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing and operators from Marine Corps Forces Cyberspace Command tested the equipment and provided valuable feedback the DCGS-MC team used to enhance the capability.

“Seeing Marines interact with this new system and the new capabilities being provided is something incredible to see,” said Godley. “Not only Marines interacting with the capabilities, but also bringing up new ways to do things.”

Godley explained how the Marine Corps once employed “runners” who collected intelligence information on the battlefield to inform commanders. The modernized DCGS-MC provides this data through electronic means.

“DCGS-MC brings that information back to the commander to make an informed decision while also disseminating it throughout the forces so that lower-level commanders can also make decisions,” said Godley. “It allows for all levels of the Marine Air-Ground Task Force to access critical information, which benefits the entire Marine Corps.”

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

MCSC Modernizing Communication Gear to Enhance Electronic Warfare

Tuesday, June 1st, 2021

QUANTICO, VA —

The Marine Corps is modernizing and reshaping its force for the future naval expeditionary fight.

Future naval warfare, specifically in the Indo-Pacific region, will require increased mobility and active communication to circumvent difficult situations. Improving battlefield communication is a major aspect of the Marine Corps’ modernization efforts to meet this future fight.

Over the past few years, Marine Corps Systems Command has begun acquiring new, cutting-edge communication technology to support future battlefield objectives, particularly those that may affect the Indo-Pacific battlespace.

“Our modernization investments provide Marines capabilities with redundancy and resiliency across the electromagnetic spectrum so Marines can communicate, conduct command and control, increase situational awareness and enable informed decision-making in the battlespace,” said Col. Robert Bailey, portfolio manager for MCSC’s Command Element Systems.

The electromagnetic spectrum encompasses the entire range of wavelengths or frequencies of electromagnetic radiation emitted through communication devices, such as radios and tablets. Bailey said the Marine Corps intends to operate effectively in this complex and dynamic environment against adversaries looking to do the same.

To support this goal, the Marine Corps has invested in capabilities that improve communication and increase situational awareness.

“We must ensure that Marines’ communication and navigation systems have the ability to continue to operate in a denied, degraded and low-bandwidth electromagnetic environment.”

Col. Robert Bailey, the portfolio manager for MCSC’s Command Element Systems.

Bailey said navigating this environment requires providing the right set of command and control, communication, and situational awareness applications and services when disconnected from the Marine Corps Enterprise Network.

“The Command Element Systems portfolio at SYSCOM is providing the capabilities that will enable commanders to maneuver within the information environment,” said Bailey.

Navigating the electromagnetic spectrum

In recent years, MCSC has focused its efforts on providing Marines with ways to securely and effectively transmit data while on-the-move in an ever-evolving battlespace. Bailey noted how effective communication links sensors to shooters and supports commanders in making well-informed, rapid decisions.

Networking On-the-Move is a mobile, satellite communication system that enables Marines to connect to networks and communicate while mobile or stationary on the battlefield, enabling flexibility when portions of the electronic spectrum are denied.

“The NOTM capabilities provide Marines with internet on the move, similar to inflight internet or cellular service while driving,” said Lt. Col. Austin Bonner, a product manager with MCSC’s Command Element Systems portfolio. “Marines can employ NOTM to securely transmit critical information to commanders and increase situational awareness in hostile environments.”

The vehicle kit, which began fielding in 2015, comprise both air and ground capabilities Marines to seamlessly share data and communicate over video and by voice.

NOTM can be used on most ground and air platforms, from a Joint Light Tactical Vehicle to an MV-22 Osprey, said Bonner.

Navigation systems are also important when operating in electromagnetic environments. The Military GPS User Equipment is a next-generation, handheld navigation capability that provides positioning, navigation and timing capabilities to warfighters while executing missions.

Bailey said MGUE enables Marines to operate in an increasingly contested electromagnetic environment.

“MGUE is effectively a GPS modernization program designed to increase resiliency and PNT capability in the current and future contested environments,” said Bailey. “It reflects a natural evolution of GPS technologies.”

MCSC has also been developing a family of systems to create an advantage for Marines and joint forces in electronic warfare.

In 2020, MCSC began developing the MAGTF Electronic Warfare Ground Family of Systems, which helps Marines sense, attack and defend against electromagnetic threats.

MEGFoS is a series of portable technologies that can be used at fixed sites, on tactical vehicles or while dismounted to maneuver effectively within the electromagnetic spectrum. It includes common, multiservice interfaces to share information across the joint forces.

MEGFoS helps Marines sense, attack and defend against electromagnetic threats, said Bailey. These capabilities comprise a vehicle-mounted electronic technology and counter radio-controlled improvised explosive devices.

“This family of systems will enable Marines to command the electromagnetic spectrum against a peer adversary, providing the Marine Corps the ability to maneuver effectively inside the spectrum and deny our adversaries that ability,” said Greg Schmidt, product manager for MCSC’s Electronic Warfare Systems.

MCSC also oversees intelligence systems that will help the Marine Corps achieve future goals.

In 2020, MCSC began fielding the Integrated Broadcast Receiver. The IBR is a rugged, tactical terminal that provides critical situational awareness information in real time for air, ground and maritime operations.

The IBR provides commanders with direct access to critical, time-sensitive intelligence data that can be used in environments with little internet connectivity. It enables Marines and commanders to leverage data to support Marine Corps missions, such as connecting sensors to shooters.

“We need to ensure that data is available to Marines, commanders and other decision-makers at the right levels, in the right amounts and at the time of need,” said Bailey. “IBR helps us accomplish this goal.”

Rendering desired outcomes

Thirty-eighth Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. David Berger outlined in his Planning Guidance his vision to redesign the Corps and meet future naval objectives to align with the National Defense Strategy.

Bailey said effectively maneuvering within the electromagnetic spectrum is crucial to meeting the commandant’s vision for achieving force design objectives and winning the future fight.

“To compete and win against our adversaries in our security environment today, the Marine Corps must be properly organized, trained and equipped,” said Bailey. “Changing how we train and operate, organize and equip the Marine Corps is the fundamental call to action of [Force Design 2030].”

Increased, effective communication is a catalyst in meeting future objectives on the battlefield, said Bailey. This cannot be accomplished without innovative equipment and modern wargaming analytical tools tailored to a 21st century battlespace.

MCSC is delivering modern capabilities designed to communicate data, support critical decision-making and enable action.

“It’s about getting information to Marines in a usable way that makes sense, so they can make decisions that render desired outcomes in communications-disadvantaged environments,” said Bailey. “Our goal is to make sure our Marines are never in a fair fight, and these investments we’re making to meet modernization objectives give Marines that competitive advantage.”

Matt Gonzales, Marine Corps Systems Command

MCSC Program Standardizes Rescue Equipment, Fields to Marine Firefighters

Monday, May 24th, 2021

MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO, Va. —

A new Marine Corps Systems Command program is standardizing and fielding modern, life-saving equipment for Marine Corps firefighters at installations worldwide.

In 2019, MCSC established the Expeditionary Fire and Rescue team. The group is tasked with modernizing and standardizing hydraulic extrication systems to support Marine firefighters at military air stations and installations.

The EFR team falls under MCSC’s Joint Project Manager for Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Protection.

“The purpose of Marine Corps Systems Command’s EFR team is to provide equipment to support fire and rescue emergencies, such as crash and fire rescue situations,” said CWO4 Eric Auburg, MCSC’s CBRN deputy. “The team equips Marines with important, life-saving capabilities.”

In April, the group conducted its first-ever fielding of new rescue equipment aboard Marine Corps Base Cherry Point, North Carolina. The tools support Marine firefighters in extricating personnel from air or ground vehicles in emergency situations.

The fielding occurred less than 24 months after the program started—despite the group comprising just two individuals.

“What this two-man team has accomplished in the last two years has been nothing short of incredible,” said Auburg.

Similar to ‘Jaws of Life’

The EFR Hydraulic Extrication Family of Systems are tools that spread, pull and cut into ground vehicles or aircrafts to safely remove individuals from life-threatening situations. The gear includes sheers and extractors as well as a lightweight hydraulic pump used to activate the tools.

The removal devices operate similarly to “Jaws of Life,” used by civilian firefighters.

“These tools are similar to what you might see used by emergency personnel when passing by an automobile accident,” said Auburg. “Our tools can be used during aviation and vehicle mishaps to cut away at a cockpit or ground vehicle in order to remove personnel.”

For example, Marines can wedge a tool called “the spreader” into a pressure point along the vehicle, such as the area between a door and door frame. The Marine can then activate the hydraulic pump, which spreads the steel pieces apart and forces an area to open up.

Ted Salas, a life cycle logistician with EFR team, said the extrication tools are lightweight and man-portable, enabling Marines to carry them while hiking into the forest or up a mountain to reach the emergency site.

The hydraulic pump allows firefighters to simultaneously operate two items. It weighs significantly less than many older pumps used by Marines and can fit into a backpack, said Auburg. The lighter load allows for faster transport during emergency situations.

“These tools are maneuverable and lightweight, helping Marines haul them in confined spaces that trucks cannot pass through,” said Salas. “They incorporate modern technology that eases the workload and weight on Marines.”

This year, the EFR team plans to field the equipment to Marines at military bases in North Carolina, New Jersey, Virginia, South Carolina, California and Arizona. The group will begin fielding overseas by the third quarter of fiscal year 2022.

Salas said the equipment is expected to be fully fielded by fiscal year 2026.

The importance of standardization

The EFR team leveraged commercial off-the shelf equipment designed to be scalable, smaller and lighter while providing a greater capability than the unstandardized, unit-purchased and sustained, legacy extrication equipment of the past.

“Previously, Marines used equipment based on what the unit had purchased,” said Auburg. “Some of that equipment could be anywhere from five years to 20 years old. Some tools could have been brand-new, but it wasn’t standardized across all units.”

The standardization of the EFR equipment not only equips Marines with modern, relevant, life-saving tools, but it also will save the Marine Corps training time and effort. For years, individual units would purchase their own tools for extraction missions and train their Marines to use them.

However, Marines often handle new equipment when moving to a new location, which requires additional training. A set of modern, standardized EFR equipment prevents Marines from having to continuously relearn gear employment.

“Having standardized equipment across the Marine Corps will create a smoother transition for Marines,” said Sgt. Benjamin Alexander, an Expeditionary Firefighting and Rescue Specialist at Marine Corps Air Facility Quantico, Virginia. “Instead of having different types of equipment to teach Marines, you cut that all out and go straight into the same operations.”

Alexander contributes to a team that provides emergency support aboard MCB Quantico. He expressed his excitement and appreciation for the new, modernized EFR equipment, which he believes will be easier to operate than similar tools of the past.

“The newer equipment is more advanced, lighter and easier to carry,” said Alexander. “It’s going to make our jobs much easier.”

A ‘truly remarkable’ effort

The conversation to launch the EFR team started in 2018. The Marine Corps intended to create a program office that could standardize and modernize ERF equipment for Marine firefighters to use locally and abroad, per Auburg.

In FY19, the EFR program began with two core members. Salas is the team’s logistician. Robert Allen, a contractor who spent more than 20 years as a Marine firefighter, serves as EFR’s subject matter expert and program analyst. The team plans to bring in a project officer in the future, said Salas.

Salas said the greatest obstacle the EFR team has encountered was simply starting the program. Much work goes into maintaining an established program, but a new program requires even more work. This meant longer hours in the office.

The truncated nature of their program meant the two team members shouldered all responsibilities, from researching effective solutions, to drafting required documentation, to planning New Equipment Training.

“We started from scratch, creating the paperwork and the presentations to get funding before we even began fielding,” said Salas.

Salas and Allen both have experience as project officers for MCSC, with a sound understanding of the need to continuously coordinate and communicate with each other to create documentation and other tasks to provide effective equipment to Marines.

“It wasn’t an easy task with just two people, but we got it done,” added Salas.

The two spent many hours drafting documentation, soliciting industry proposals, researching effective systems and acquiring the EFR technologies. The culmination of these efforts occurred during the EFR fielding aboard Cherry Point, where the duo attended to verify the tools met expectations.

Allen said Marines so far have responded positively to the equipment.

“The Marines praised the new, modern gear throughout new equipment training,” said Allen. “Their feedback is important to us.”

Auburg commended Salas and Allen for their hard work and dedication despite the disadvantages that come with having a small team.

“A team of two, starting from scratch, went through the bureaucracy of the acquisition process and all the documentation required, which has ultimately resulted in equipment in the hands of Marines less than two years later,” said Auburg. “That is truly remarkable.”

Photo by LCpl Symira Bostic

Supporting the Future Fight: MCSC Modernizing Infantry Capabilities

Monday, May 17th, 2021

MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO, Va. —

The Marine Corps has been investing time, money and resources into modernizing the force to meet objectives outlined in the Commandant’s Planning Guidance, Force Design 2030 and the National Defense Strategy.

Brig. Gen. A.J. Pasagian, commander of Marine Corps Systems Command, has stated that no investment is more important than those in support of the infantry Marine.

“The Marine Corps in 2030 does not exist without the individual Marine, what they’re wearing and what they’re carrying,” said Pasagian. “Enhancing our infantry Marines by providing them with the best capabilities available remains an integral, ongoing priority for the Marine Corps.”

MCSC has placed great emphasis on meeting the demands of the future force to ensure Marines are never in a fair fight, said Pasagian. To achieve this objective, the command has concentrated on increasing infantry communication, lethality and survivability.

Increased close combat lethality

Over the last few years, MCSC developed and fielded several new, modernized capabilities to Marines, including the M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle, Squad Common Optic, Squad Binocular Night Vision Goggles and M320A1 grenade launcher.

The M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle, originally fielded in 2011, is lighter and reaches farther distances than its predecessor, the M249 squad automatic weapon, said CWO4 David Tomlinson, MCSC’s infantry weapons officer.

“The M27 is fully automatic and increases their accuracy compared with previous weapons systems,” said Tomlinson. “The increased accuracy leads to increased lethality.”

Over time, the popularity of the weapon blossomed among Marines. They raved about its ease of use and overall effectiveness. This led to the Corps expanding its fielding to all rifle platoons as their primary individual weapon.

Earlier this year, Marines began receiving the Squad Common Optic, an innovative new rifle sight that better enables shooters to identify and engage the enemy from farther distances in variable light conditions. It can be attached to the M4 and M4A1 Carbine as well as the M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle.

“The Squad Common Optic is a variable-power optic that allows Marines to engage to threats at the maximum effective range of their weapons system, improving target acquisition and probability-of-hit with infantry assault rifles,” said Tomlinson.

In 2020, MCSC also fielded the Squad Binocular Night Vision Goggle—a lightweight, helmet-mounted night vision system that provides increased depth perception, improved clarity and a thermal-imaging capability to detect targets in extreme darkness or through battlefield obscurants.

The SBNVG enables Marines to operate vehicles at night, move through dark buildings or tunnels, and engage targets after sunset. By using this system, Marines can be as lethal at night as they are in the daytime, said Tomlinson.

The Marine Corps also began fielding a new grenade launcher last year. The M320A1 is a single-fire system that Marines can either mount onto another rifle or use as a stand-alone weapon.

“The M320A1 provides an improved capability to engage the enemy day and night, while retaining the capability of short range, reflexive fire of the primary weapon,” said Capt. Nick Berger, MCSC’s project officer for the M320A1. “In addition, the M320A1 increases the small unit flexibility in employing lethal, nonlethal and special-purpose munitions by allowing them to tailor the weapon configuration to the mission.”

Lightening the load

Infantry units need more than just weapons to get the job done. The Marine Corps leans heavily upon MCSC’s Program Manager for Infantry Combat Equipment to research, develop and field lightweight protective gear designed to increase survivability.

In 2020, MCSC began updating its enhanced combat helmet to improve fit and comfort. The improved, high-cut helmet includes a retention system that tightens around the circumference of the head and adjusts easier. Female Marines, in particular, have noted how the high-cut ECH fits their hair buns better than the legacy ECH.

Another notable fielding in 2020 was the Plate Carrier Generation III, a next-generation protective vest that provides improved fit, form and function for Marines. The PC Gen. III guards against bullets and fragmentation when coupled with protective plates.

The PC Gen. III uses less material than the Plate Carrier that fielded in 2011. Lt. Col. Andrew Konicki, the program manager for Infantry Combat Equipment, explained that the improved designed of the PC Gen. III reduces the overall weight and bulkiness of the vest, increasing maneuverability.

“Lightening the load is important because it allows Marines to be more agile when moving from covered position to covered position,” said Konicki. “Improved mobility increases survivability while preserving endurance, which enhances a Marine’s lethality.”

In 2021, MCSC began fielding the Marine Corps Intense Cold Weather Boot—a full-grain, leather boot designed for use in temperatures as cold as -20 degrees Fahrenheit. The ICWB is lighter and less bulky than the Extreme Cold Weather Boot, employed in -65 to -20 degrees Fahrenheit.

The ICWB allows Marines to complete various missions that might involve hiking or skiing in arduous, cold weather environments without having to change boots, said Konicki.

“This boot lightens the load for Marines because they’ll need only one boot for cold weather operations instead of having to carry two sets of boots and change based on the weather conditions,” said Konicki.

On the ammunition front, MCSC awarded a contract in 2020 to test and evaluate new, lightweight .50-caliber polymer ammo, with an intent to further lighten the warfighter’s load. The ammo, to be used in the M2 Machine Gun, is significantly lighter and easier to haul than the traditional brass casings.

Polymer is a class of plastic-like material that weighs less than brass and other metals commonly used in weapon systems. As the Marine Corps evaluates .50-caliber polymer ammo, other services are also evaluating other types of ammo.

The Army, for instance, is validating a 7.62mm polymer round, which could also potentially make its way to Marines in the future.

CWO3 Chad Cason, a project officer with MCSC’s Program Manager for Ammunition, said polymer ammo enables Marines to carry more with less fatigue, enhancing combat readiness. He also noted how the ammunition is just as effective as the brass ammo of the past.

“This is truly an innovative program, as [PM Ammunition] continues its modernization efforts in support of increasing lethality and capability to the Fleet Marine Force,” said Cason.

MCSC will host several limited user evaluations in 2021 and 2022, allowing Marines to assess the effectiveness and performance of the ammunition. Marine feedback during these assessments will inform a future fielding decision, said Cason.

Enhanced communication

Operating in a 21st century environment also requires innovative command and control equipment to increase communication on the battlefield.

In 2019, the Marine Corps fielded a lightweight, tablet system that improves situational awareness on the battlefield. The Marine Air-Ground Task Force Common Handheld enables Marines to use commercial smart devices to plot and share points, offering an overall view of the battlespace to commanders.

Later that year, MCSC upgraded the MCH to allow Marines to communicate with one another through several additional communication systems, including the Advanced Field Artillery Tactical Data System and the Army’s Joint Battle Command-Platform.

“Communication is critical to ensure Marines and commanders in the field have access to information and data at the right levels,” said John Maurer, deputy portfolio manager for MCSC’s Command Element Systems. “It enables, facilitates and accelerates decision-making and situational awareness.”

In 2020, the Marine Corps also fielded a next-generation High Frequency Radio II, which provides Marines with long-range, beyond line-of-site radio communications. The radio system comprises Wideband HF, increasing the data rate to more quickly communicate larger amounts of information.

Maurer said the HFR II is a modern, resilient and sustainable capability that is significantly smaller and lighter than the legacy HF radio. MCSC’s Ground Radios HFR II Team, led by Leigh King, accelerated the acquisition process and achieved fielding one year earlier than originally planned.

The MCH, HFR II and several other communication systems acquired by MCSC are designed to make communication more seamless and efficient for infantry Marines, said Maurer.

“We are positioned to meet the Commandant’s Planning Guidance by providing multiple new systems to infantry Marines to enable the kill chain,” said Maurer. “The capabilities provided will support the initial operational capability of Force Design 2030 by providing assured command and control in a degraded environment, information warfare superiority and protected mobility for enhanced maneuver.”

The importance of training

The Marine Corps cannot accomplish its modernization goals alone.

Chris Woodburn, of the Capabilities Development Directorate at the Combat Development and Integration, said they will continue to solicit support from industry and other services to field innovative capabilities and posture for the future fight.

“The Marine Corps is fielding several close combat lethality enhancements to address near-term requirements while working with the Army to pursue the next generation capabilities for the future,” said Woodburn. “These enhancements facilitate our close combat forces’ ability to leverage the best capability now, while posturing for the future through continued work with partner services.”

Tomlinson believes updating infantry units relevant gear is a critical step in gaining a competitive advantage over adversaries. However, he said the acquisition of effective equipment and the employment of active training can help the Marine Corps reach its modernization goals.

“Lethality isn’t just an item,” said Tomlinson. “We can give Marines a new system, but that doesn’t necessarily make them more lethal. Lethality also involves incorporating proper, effective training.”

Tomlinson said MCSC often employs New Equipment Training events to furnish Marines with the knowledge necessary to operate new capabilities. MCSC’s Training Systems program office also ensures Marines are equipped with the technology and systems needed to use newly-fielded capabilities in a simulated environment.

The Marine Corps’ Training and Education Command also plays an important role in increasing the lethality of Marines.

TECOM leads the Marine Corps’ individual entry-level training, professional military education and continuous professional development, through unit, collective and service-level training. The group’s intent is to enhance warfighting organizations that enable Marines to build and sustain the combat readiness required to fight and win today and in the future.

“The modernization of gear and equipment needs to be seamless to the training piece,” said CWO4 Anthony Viggiani, TECOM’s infantry weapons officer. “It’s not just the gear and equipment that makes an individual more lethal, it co-aligns the training as well.”

Viggiani said training offers the preparation needed to increase battlefield lethality. Training equips Marines with the confidence and capabilities needed to employ a piece of equipment to its maximum effectiveness, he said.

“You can’t just give an individual gear and equipment and think that’s going to solve all our problems,” said Viggiani. “Training is an important steppingstone to increasing lethality on the battlefield.”

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

US Marines Receive Improved Optic to Identify Threats from Longer Distances

Monday, March 1st, 2021

MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO, Va.—Marines recently received an innovative new optic that better prepares them to engage adversaries from longer distances.

In January, Marine Corps Systems Command’s Program Manager for Infantry Weapons began fielding the Squad Common Optic—a magnified day optic comprising an illuminated and nonilluminated aim-point designed to improve target acquisition and probability-of-hit with infantry assault rifles.

The SCO can be attached to the M4 and M4A1 Carbine as well as the M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle. It will supplement the attrition and replacement of the Rifle Combat Optic and the Squad Day Optic for each of those weapons for close-combat Marines.

“The Squad Common Optic provides an improved day optic to infantry and infantry-like communities, including reconnaissance units” said Tom Dever, project officer for Combat Optics at MCSC. “It’s a system that improves situational awareness and decreases engagement times, greatly benefiting Marines.”

SCO an improvement over RCO

The SCO enables Marines to identify targets from farther distances than the existing RCO system.

Roger Boughton, MCSC’s lead engineer for the SCO program, said the RCO has a fixed magnification, whereas the SCO provides a variable power. This means Marines can use the SCO to identify targets at both close and far distances, providing twice the visual range of the RCO.

“Having an optic that can reach out to longer distances will ultimately make the Marine a more lethal first-shot shooter,” said Boughton. “This means they can use less rounds to overwhelm an enemy.”

Maj. Kyle Padilla, MCSC’s optics team lead and an infantry officer, said the SCO is agnostic to the round and weapon system, which provides additional flexibility for Marines. This allows for movement to a different host weapon and accommodates the employment of the M855, M855A1 or future ammunition.

“It’s all about making an accurate decision,” said Padilla. “The SCO gives squad leaders or individual riflemen more time to make a decision to eliminate that threat if necessary.”

The system is also easy to assemble. The SCO includes a mount that prevents Marines from needing to carry tools to remove or exchange the optic, lightening the load for Marines.

“If you want to mount it onto the rail of the weapon, you don’t need a wrench to tighten anything,” said Boughton. “You just need your hands.”

‘A step in the right direction’

The SCO program moved rapidly from program designation to fielding in just 16 months. After awarding a contract, PM IW conducted various user assessments, including a simulated 10,000-round fire exercise, during production verification testing to confirm performance and resolve issues.

During these evaluations, Marines raved about the benefits of the SCO and its improvement over the existing system.

“Being able to shoot farther, identify targets at greater ranges and be more accurate will make them more lethal,” said CWO4 David Tomlinson, MCSC’s infantry weapons officer. “Marines have expressed excitement over this capability.”

CWO4 Gerald Eggers, the infantry weapons officer at The Basic School, participated in the system’s fielding in January, aboard Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia. He commended the scope’s variable power magnification as well as its ability to be employed with different ammunition and weapons.

“Marines with M27s will greatly benefit with this scope,” said Eggers. “I certainly believe the SCO fielding is a step in the right direction.”

Dever said the fielding of the SCO puts an improved capability into Marines’ hands more quickly and enables them to carry out their missions more efficiently and effectively.

“The rapid acquisition and fielding of improved capabilities is vital to equipping the Marine Corps to operate inside actively contested maritime spaces in support of fleet operations,” said Dever.

The program office anticipates the weapon reaching Full Operational Capability in fiscal year 2022.

Story by Matt Gonzales, Marine Corps Systems Command

Marine Corps Begins Widespread Fielding of Suppressors

Wednesday, December 30th, 2020

MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO, Va. —

Marines risk their lives to protect others.

Many are trained to locate, close with and destroy the enemy by fire and maneuver, or repel the enemy’s assault by fire and close combat. They engage adversaries in any clime and place, no matter how arduous the conditions.

Marine Corps Systems Command is tasked not only with enhancing the lethality of warfighters. The command also strives to protect them.

MCSC has taken another step toward increasing lethality and protection for Marines. In December, the command began the process of fielding thousands of suppressors to infantry, reconnaissance and special operation units for employment on the M27, M4 and M4A1 rifles.

Small arms suppressors are designed to reduce a weapon’s noise, flash and recoil. They are also time-efficient, as attachment and detachment only takes a few seconds. The mass fielding of the suppressors, and their myriad benefits, represents a monumental moment for the Marine Corps.

“We’ve never fielded suppressors at this scale,” said Maj. Mike Brisker, weapons product manager in MCSC’s Program Manager for Infantry Weapons. “This fielding is a big moment for the Marine Corps.”

MCSC works with CD&I, PP&O

In recent years, the Marine Corps had already begun suppressing its M38 and M4A1 rifles. However, an increased number of commanders felt suppressing additional weapons would increase the overall lethality of the infantry.

The impetus for equipping additional weapons with suppressors came from a series of experimentations at a 2016 “Sea Dragon” event, which enables the Marine Corps to experiment with current and emerging technologies and operational concepts.

At the event, a battalion employed the suppressors as part of a Marine Corps Warfighting Lab experimentation.

“The positive feedback from that experiment was the primary driving force behind procuring suppressors,” said Brisker. “We’ve had a few limited user experiments with various units since that time, and all of those events generated positive reviews of the capability.”

Before acquiring the suppressors, MCSC worked with the Marine Corps’ Combat Development and Integration; Plans, Policies and Operations; and the Fleet Marine Force to determine the optimal concept of distribution to support the close combat Marine.

“Our intent was to leverage commercially available technology to support the near-term modernization required for our close combat Marines,” said Billy Epperson, the Infantry Weapon Capabilities Integration Officer at CD&I.

Epperson added that the Marine Corps conducted Limited User Evaluations in 2019 with commercial suppressors provided by vendors showcasing the latest and greatest in technology to characterize requirements in support of an acquisition effort that began in fiscal year 2020.

In 2020, PM IW procured about 6,700 small arms suppressors through Defense Logistics Agency’s Tailored Logistic Program, and acquired more than 7,000 additional units on the first delivery order upon the contract award. Brisker said the goal is to field approximately 30,000 suppressors by fiscal year 2023.

How suppressors save lives

CWO4 David Tomlinson, MCSC’s infantry weapons officer, emphasized the importance of suppressors in exchanging information during battle. He said gun fights create a chaotic environment with intense noise levels, producing communication problems that can increase confusion.

“I would say the most important thing the suppressor does is allow for better inter-squad, inter-platoon communication,” said Tomlinson. “It allows the operators to communicate laterally up and down the line during a fire fight.”

Tomlinson said suppressors can save lives, as Marines engaged in battle can expose themselves from their firing position. The suppressor reduces their audible and visual signature, making it more difficult for the enemy to ascertain their location.

In addition to tactical advantages on the battlefield, the reduced noise of the suppressors also benefits a Marine’s long-term health, said Brisker. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, hearing problems are by far the most prevalent service-connected disability among American veterans.

“In the big picture, the VA pays out a lot in hearing loss claims,” said Brisker. “We’d like Marines to be able to continue to hear for many years even after they leave the service. These suppressors have that benefit as well.”

Tomlinson mentioned how the news of the fielding of additional suppressors has created a groundswell of excitement among the units receiving them. He believes the myriad advantages suppressors provide will benefit the Marine Corps for years to come.

“As I travel and brief units, this capability has generated the most interest—from lance corporals to colonels,” said Tomlinson. “There has been an overwhelming excitement to receiving the suppressors, which we anticipate will serve as an effective capability for the warfighter.”

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

US Marine Corps photo by Sarah N. Petrock, 2d MARDIV Combat Camera

USMC Amphibious Combat Vehicle Achieves Major Milestone

Thursday, December 10th, 2020

The US Department of Defense announced today:

BAE Systems Land and Armaments L.P., Sterling Heights, Michigan, is awarded an $184,444,865 fixed-price-incentive (firm target) modification to previously awarded contract M67854-16-0006 for amphibious combat vehicles (ACV).  This modification provides for the procurement of 36 full rate production ACVs and other associated production costs for the Marine Corps.  Work will be performed in York, Pennsylvania (60%); Aiken, South Carolina (15%); San Jose, California (15%); Sterling Heights, Michigan (5%); and Stafford, Virginia (5%).  Work is expected to be completed in November 2022.  Fiscal 2021 procurement (Marine Corps) funds in the amount of $184,444,865 are being obligated at the time of award, none of which will expire at the end of the current fiscal year.  The Marine Corps Systems Command, Quantico, Virginia, is the contracting activity (M67854-16-C-0006).

Marine Corps’ Program Executive Office Land Systems issues a story about the program:

Marine Corps will begin fielding Amphibious Combat Vehicle

Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va.— The Marine Corps’ new Amphibious Combat Vehicle has achieved two new major milestones.

On Nov. 13, the Marine Corps’ Capabilities Development Directorate approved the Initial Operational Capability of the ACV. Marines with 1st Marine Division aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, were the first to receive the vehicle.

The Program Manager Advanced Amphibious Assault program office at Program Executive Officer Land Systems manages the system.

“We’re providing Marines with a modern, armored personnel carrier that offers tremendous capability with respect to survivability,” said Col. Kirk Mullins, program manager for Advanced Amphibious Assault at PEO Land Systems. “The ACV gives the Marine Corps a capable platform operational across the full-range of military operations.”

Then, on Dec. 8, Assistant Secretary of the Navy (Research, Development and Acquisition) James Geurts approved the vehicle for Full-Rate Production. This means the Marine Corps can build and field higher quantities of the ACV at a sustained rate over the next several years.

What is the ACV?

The ACV is a next-generation, eight-wheeled vehicle designed to move Marines from ship to shore. The vehicle will be the primary means of tactical mobility for the Marine infantry battalion at sea and ashore, replacing the Corps’ aging Assault Amphibious Vehicle.

The ACV provides organic, direct fire support to dismounted infantry. The vehicle’s ability to leverage waterways to carry Marines and equipment make it well-suited for various operating environments, including Expeditionary Advanced Base Operations.

It is net-ready, secure, interoperable, operationally effective and built for future growth. In the future, the Corps intends to develop, procure and field three additional variants that specialize in command and control, recovery operations and increased firepower.

“The fielding of the ACV is significant because we’re replacing the AAV, which has been effective for decades but was fielded in 1972,” said Mullins. “We’re providing Marines with a modern, more capable combat vehicle that is more adaptable to today’s battlefield.”

Col. David G. Bardorf, the director of Ground Combat Element Division at the Marine Corps’ Capabilities Development Directorate, said the ACV has progressed significantly since its initial requirements discussions in 2014. Combat Development and Integration was responsible for developing the requirements set that would be needed to replace the older platform.

“Reaching IOC is a testament to those involved in this program and the constant communication between the stakeholders: requirements, program managers, and [the vendor],” said Bardorf. “In the end, the Marine Corps is receiving an upgrade in capability ahead of schedule. We look forward to the program moving forward towards Full Operational Capability.”

Mullins said the vehicle is projected to reach FOC in fiscal year 2028.

Marines excited for new vehicle

In 2019, PEO Land Systems oversaw extensive testing involving the ACV that confirmed the vehicle’s ability to not only take on challenging surf, but also complete a long swim from ship to shore. The testing also indicated that the ACV has greater survivability and mobility than the AAV.

In 2020, Marine Corps Operational Test and Evaluation Activity performed independent operational testing involving the ACV’s achieved suitability, effectiveness and survivability. Results from the assessments, as well as feedback from Marines trained to employ the vehicle, came back positive.

Mullins believes the ACV achieving IOC and FRP is a significant achievement for the Marine Corps, as Marines will receive an innovative vehicle that further supports their missions in various combat environments for years to come.

“As program manager, I’ve spent a lot of time speaking with Marines who have trained with this vehicle in a variety of test environments,” said Mullins. “The feedback we’ve consistently received has been overwhelmingly positive. Marines seem to really love the vehicle.”

Story by Barb Hamby, PEO Land Systems

Photo by by Ashley Calingo