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USMC’s PM Infantry Weapons Undergoing Largest Modernization Effort in Decades

Wednesday, May 20th, 2020

MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO, Va. —

Marine Corps Systems Command’s Program Manager for Infantry Weapons has begun a large-scale modernization project to increase the lethality of the infantry squad.

PM IW strives to equip and sustain the Marine Corps with fully-integrated infantry weapons, optics and nonlethal systems for the Ground Combat Element.

The portfolio’s modernization efforts adhere to Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. David Berger’s vision to redesign the force to meet the challenges of a new age of great power competition. Through PM IW, the Corps plans to field numerous new weapon and optic systems over the next decade.

“This is the largest modernization of the infantry squad in the last 25 years,” said Lt. Col. Tim Hough, MCSC’s program manager for Infantry Weapons.

Strengthening systems

PM IW has begun the procurement of the Modular Handgun System, which will replace all Marine Corps pistols. This striker-fired pistol includes a plastic clip-on piece, enabling Marines to change grip sizes to accommodate different hand sizes. The weapon is compatible with the pistol-aiming module used by some units.

MCSC will begin fielding the system this fiscal year.

“The MHS improves on the precision and reliability of the legacy platforms, while also bringing with it new, more effective ammunition,” said Maj. Mike Brisker, weapons product manager for PM IW.

MCSC is expanding the use of the M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle. Originally fielded to infantry units as a replacement for the M249 Squad Automatic Weapon in 2011, the rifle received overwhelmingly positive feedback from Marines. This feedback led to the Marine Corps’ decision to field the M27 to all rifle platoons as their primary individual weapon.

“We expect fielding of [the M27] to conclude by the end of this fiscal year,” said Brisker.

PM IW is also enhancing its optic systems. Fielded in spring 2020, the Squad Binocular Night Vision Goggle is a helmet-mounted system that offers improved depth perception, and the ability to detect and recognize targets in extreme low light, in inclement weather and in the presence of obscurants. The SBNVG provides additional capabilities that the legacy system, the AN/PVS-14, lacked.

Since awarding a contract in February 2020, PM IW plans to begin fielding the Squad Common Optic in fiscal year 2021. The SCO includes a magnified day optic, which improves situational awareness, decreases engagement times and increases probability of hit.

“The Squad Common Optic enables Marines to see farther and identify the enemy more quickly,” said Hough.

MCSC is collaborating with other services to field certain systems. For example, the Marine Corps will partner with the Army to procure the Next-Generation Squad Weapon system, intended to replace the M27 and become the primary individual weapon for infantry units.

The NGSW will provide a significant boost to the lethality of the individual soldier and Marine. The weapon includes an optic/fire control system that will incorporate a disturbed reticle to improve the shooter’s accuracy.

The Marine Corps could receive first deliveries of the NGSW as early as fiscal year 2025, said Brisker.

Additionally, PM IW and Fleet Marines are participating in the Army’s Integrated Visual Augmentation System and the Enhanced Night Vision-Binocular programs to help inform requirements and programmatic decisions in the future.

Enhancing performance

PM IW’s modernization efforts mirror MCSC’s mission to increase lethality among Marines. The command is continuously striving to equip Marines with the capabilities needed to successfully fulfill missions. To meet this goal, PM IW will continue to solicit feedback from Marines and industry.

“In line with the Commandant’s Planning Guidance, we’re looking to lighten the load and increase the overall lethality of Close Combat Forces—specifically infantry Marines,” said CW4 David Tomlinson, an infantry weapons officer with PM IW.

Tomlinson believes upgrading Infantry Weapon systems will ultimately enhance performance on the battlefield and increase survivability at a time when enemies are strengthening.

“These efforts show we are focused on staying abreast of advancements that are coming quickly,” said Tomlinson. “It also shows our desire to stay persistent, look toward the future, and make sure our Marines receive the best [systems] we can buy.”

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

Photos by LCpl Michaela R. Gregory and Kealii De Los Santos

Marine Corps Soliciting Proposals for New Hearing Enhancement Device

Thursday, April 30th, 2020

MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO, Va. —

The Marine Corps is asking for industry’s help in providing enhanced hearing protection to Marines.

On April 22, Marine Corps Systems Command released a Request for Proposals for a suite of hearing enhancement devices that interoperate with the Enhanced Combat Helmet and Marine Corps tactical radios. The technology will increase Marines’ situational awareness in a variety of training and combat environments.

“The program manager for Infantry Combat Equipment intends to purchase Hearing Enhancement Devices for every infantry and infantry-like Marine,” said Lt. Col. Bryan Leahy, MCSC’s Individual Armor team lead.

In fiscal year 2020, MCSC received $10 million Operation and Maintenance, Marine Corps funding to purchase hearing enhancement devices.

Per the RFP, the hearing enhancement devices must be rugged and adaptable to various environments, from cold weather to extreme heat. The system would allow Marines to wear hearing protection, yet still enable them to communicate and understand their surroundings.

PM ICE will assess the submissions to ensure compatibility with Marine Corps radios and the Marine Corps ECH. The systems must include versions that are both communication-enabled and non-communications enabled.

MCSC estimates the new hearing protection will be fielded to infantry units in fiscal year 2021. PM ICE will conduct New Equipment Training with each unit receiving the technology.

Provides added hearing protection

In addition to improving Marines’ situational awareness, the hearing enhancement devices will also offer additional hearing protection.

The hearing enhancement devices will complement the Combat Arms Earplug Generation IV—the Marine Corps’ current hearing protection system—by offering a secondary level of protection to further avoid hearing damage.

“The hearing enhancement devices and current earplugs provide double hearing protection, giving Marines more protection from extremely loud noises,” Leahy said.

Leahy believes the Hearing Enhancement Devices will serve as an important asset for Marines on the battlefield.

“Purchasing these devices is a clear indication of how the Marine Corps is investing into the warfighter and giving Marines an edge on the battlefield and in training,” said Leahy.

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

Photo by Staff Sgt. Ezekiel Kitandwe

MCSC Fields Upgraded Tablet-Based Technology

Monday, April 13th, 2020

MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO, Va. —

Last year, the Marine Corps fielded a lightweight, tablet-based system that improves situational awareness on the battlefield. This year, Marines will see an enhanced version of the technology.

The Marine Air-Ground Task Force Common Handheld enables dismounted Marines to leverage commercial smart devices to plot and share locations. The tablet’s software includes a moving map with friendly and enemy positions, giving Marines at all levels a better overall view of the battlespace.

“MCH includes applications specific to the needs of a Marine at the tactical edge,” said Maj. R. Travis Beeson, Tactical Applications and Services Team Lead at Marine Corps Systems Command. “The system increases digital lethality while decreasing the chance for friendly fire.”

MCH allows Marines to relay messages and locations to other users in a manner similar to text messaging. The system’s capabilities augment previous methods of radio contact, allowing quieter and more efficient long-distance communication.

“By employing MCH, location errors due to misreading a paper map will be reduced,” said Maj. Justin King, MCSC’s project officer for MCH.

Updated system increases efficiency

MCSC recently rebuilt the system’s communication engine to increase interoperability.

The upgraded MCH enables Marines to communicate with one another through several additional communication systems, including the Advanced Field Artillery Tactical Data System, the Command and Control Personal Computer and the Army’s Joint Battle Command-Platform.

The newer system has lower data bandwidth requirements—a constrained resource on the battlefield— and uses a lower percentage of the available network when compared with the previous version of the technology.

“Reducing bandwidth frees up space for other tactical uses,” said King. “It also allows for additional users on the network without clogging it.”

In December 2019, MCSC fielded the upgraded version of MCH to infantry Marines aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, and will continue fielding to other infantry units throughout the year. The program office plans to field to the Reserves in fiscal year 2021.

Marine feedback on the MCH has been overwhelmingly positive, said Beeson. He noted how those who have received the system emphasize its benefits, while Marines still awaiting the technology are excited for its arrival.

“The units are constantly asking when they will receive theirs,” said Beeson. “And others have asked when they will receive more. The feedback has been great, but the MCH team recognizes that our work isn’t complete and will continue to develop and field new capabilities.”

Both Beeson and King expressed excitement over the benefits of MCH and its ability in helping Marines better accomplish their missions. The system is an efficient way to communicate with one another without relying on voice communication.

“Commanders down to the squad level will be better equipped with a lightweight tablet that grants them better situational awareness via a moving map with both friendly and enemy positions,” said Beeson. “That will ultimately help them on the battlefield.”

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

USMC Begins Fielding Plate Carrier Gen III

Tuesday, April 7th, 2020

MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO, Va. —

The Marine Corps has begun fielding a next-generation protective vest that provides improved fit, form and function for Marines.

The Plate Carrier Generation III is a lightweight plate carrying system that guards against bullets and fragmentation when coupled with protective plates.

“This system protects Marines on the battlefield,” said Lt. Col. Andrew Konicki, the Program Manager for Infantry Combat Equipment at Marine Corps Systems Command. “The PC Gen. III is important because it is nearly 25-percent lighter than the legacy technology.”

The Marine Corps constantly looks for ways to lighten the load for Marines. PM ICE worked with industry to remove excess bulk from the legacy Plate Carrier, which was fielded in 2011. The elimination of excess material reduces the overall weight of the system and increases maneuverability, said Konicki.

“When you lighten the load, Marines can get to their destinations faster and they’re going to have more endurance, which increases their lethality,” said Konicki.

In 2016, MCSC conducted a study to analyze the components and effectiveness of a prototype version of the PC Gen. III. Marines tested both the legacy and prototype systems during various obstacle courses, including a 15-kilometer hike at a fixed pace.

The results of the study showed that participants completed the courses faster and appeared better  conditioned when using the newer technology. Marines’ mobility and ability to handle a weapon improved when using the PC Gen. III prototype, said Konicki.

“The PC Gen. III improves the Marines’ ability to shoot and move by eliminating excess bulk from the design, and cutting out the shoulders for a better rifle stock weld,” added Lt. Col. Bryan Leahy, Individual Armor Team lead in PM ICE.

Fits men and women

Another advantage of the PC Gen. III lies in its fit. MCSC increased the variation of sizes, enabling nearly 15,000 more Marines—both male and female—to fit into the system when compared with the legacy technology, said Konicki. The newer system fits closer to the body, increasing protection and decreasing the risk of injury due to improper fit.

The next-generation system is designed to fit individuals of all sizes and statures—from the 2nd percentile female Marine to the 98th percentile male Marine. A curvature in the associated protective plates accommodates chest and abdomen size without compromising protection.

“I think there’s a misconception that all females are small, and that’s not always true” said Konicki. “We conducted a study that found the smallest Marine is actually male.”

According to Konicki, during multiple user evaluations female Marines have said they prefer the newer technology to the legacy system because of its fit and mobility.

Infantry and infantry-like Marines will be the first to receive the PC Gen. III. The new vest body armor will then be fielded to supporting units. The program office expects the PC Gen III to reach Full Operational Capability by fiscal year 2023.

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

UCSD Medical Center Requesting MCSC’s Help to Support COVID-19 Crisis

Wednesday, March 25th, 2020

MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO, Va. —

The University of California San Diego Medical Center has requested Marine Corps Systems Command’s assistance to help medical professionals as they deal with the evolving crisis of COVID-19.

On March 16, Dr. Sidney Merritt, an anesthesiologist at UCSD Medical Center, contacted MCSC’s Advanced Manufacturing Operations Cell requesting assistance in coordinating 3D printer assets to design parts to enable the simultaneous ventilation of multiple patients.

AMOC initiated collaboration with the Naval Information Warfare Center Pacific Reverse Engineering, Science and Technology for Obsolescence, Restoration and Evaluation Lab to rapidly design, print, test and evaluate prototype ventilator splitters using various materials.

The AMOC team also worked with the Navy’s Bureau of Medicine and Surgery for support in evaluating, certifying and approving the parts prior to delivery to the medical center.

MCSC, NIWC Pacific and UCSD have established a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement to facilitate current and future support requests. A Memorandum of Understanding among MCSC, NIWC Pacific and the Navy’s Bureau of Medicine and Surgery is also being established to codify roles and responsibilities.

MCSC’s involvement

On March 18, Merritt provided design files for the ventilator splitter based upon a successful test print conducted by the UCSD engineering team. UCSD requested assistance in printing ventilator splitters in higher resolution and with diverse materials that could meet specific design requirements.

After receiving the design files, AMOC and the NIWC Pacific RESTORE lab printed several prototypes using different materials. In less than a day, AMOC used its industrial printer in Quantico, Virginia, and the RESTORE Lab employed its organic printers to produce initial prototypes. 

The 3D-printed ventilator splitters were scanned to ensure accuracy with the design files and then brought to UCSD Medical Center for fit testing and further design analysis.

AMOC’s reputation in advanced manufacturing has grown since its establishment in 2019. The cell has demonstrated the ability to produce 3D-printed parts and provide other sustainment and manufacturing solutions in a timely fashion. When called upon, the AMOC can produce parts in a fraction of the time it takes traditional manufacturers.

“AMOC’s response to this situation demonstrates how additive manufacturing can respond quickly to supply chain disruptions and rapidly prototype, evaluate and test new solutions to meet emerging urgent requirements,” said Scott Adams, AMOC lead at MCSC.

The rapid response by AMOC and the NIWC Pacific RESTORE lab to UCSD Medical Center’s request for support is indicative of how the Department of the Navy is prepared to respond to the medical community during the COVID-19 crisis.

“I couldn’t be prouder of the Marine Corps and NIWC Pacific team,” said Carly Jackson, NAVWAR Chief Technology Officer. “We are demonstrating the power, agility and speed of response that our Naval research and development centers bring to bear in times of national need.”

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

MCSC Awards Contract to Trijicon to Produce the Squad Common Optic

Tuesday, February 25th, 2020

MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO, Va. —

Six months after seeking industry proposals, Marine Corps Systems Command awarded an indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity, firm-fixed-price contract to Trijicon, Inc., of Wixom, Michigan, Feb. 21 to produce Squad Common Optic systems.

The contract has a maximum ceiling of $64 million, and Trijicon is slated to produce approximately 19,000 units. The purchase also includes spare parts, training, nonfunctional units, interim contractor logistics support and refurbishment of test articles.

Fielding to Fleet Marine Forces will begin in the first quarter of fiscal year 2021 and will be completed by fiscal year 2023.

“The Squad Common Optic provides greater lethality compared to the existing system, the Rifle Combat Optic,” said Lt. Col. Tim Hough, MCSC’s Program Manager for Infantry Weapons.

The SCO is a magnified day optic that improves target acquisition and probability-of-hit with infantry assault rifles. The system comprises a noncaliber-specific reticle and incorporates an illuminated or nonilluminated aim-point. Because the optic is variable in power, Marines can identify their targets from farther distances than the RCO.

 

“The SCO supplements the attrition and replacement of the RCO Family of Optics and the Squad Day Optic for the M27, M4 and M4A1 weapon platforms for close-combat Marines,” said Tom Dever, interim team lead for Combat Optics at MCSC.

 

Awarding the contract through full and open competition, MCSC saved approximately $8 million across the life of the program, according to Hough. He also noted the speed at which the program office worked to award the contract.

In six months, Dever and his team defined system requirements, developed an acquisition strategy, conducted market research, requested vendor proposals and evaluated them against requirements, and implemented the contract strategy before MCSC awarded the contract.

“Tom Dever and his team had to find novel ways to move quickly with this process,” added Hough.

MCSC is undertaking the largest modernization of the infantry squad in the last 25 years. Hough and Dever emphasized that the contract award is one step in PM IW’s large-scale project to overhaul the Corps’ close-combat forces and improve their lethality.

“While the contract award is great, we’re not done yet,” said Dever. “Success is not found in contracts awarded, but rather it’s measured in confirmed kills. By awarding this contract faster, it expedites our ability to get this system in the hands of Marines to accomplish this end goal. That is what PM IW is all about.”

By Matt Gonzales, MCSC Office of Public Affairs and Communication






MCSC Approves Procurement of New LAV Intercom System

Monday, January 27th, 2020

MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO, Va.—In December 2019, the Program Manager for Light Armored Vehicles at Marine Corps Systems Command approved the initial procurement of the TOCNET-G4 Intercom System—or G4 ICS—for use in the Family of LAVs.

The G4 ICS is the LAV communication management system that allows Marines to easily communicate, both internally and externally, improving communication and situational awareness on the battlefield.

“We’re providing a communication capability that offers tremendous utility for Marines,” said Dan O’Conner, the project lead for Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance payloads and capabilities for PM LAV.

The G4 ICS is an easy-to-use tactical communication system comprising a user interface that adapts well to the operational environment of the LAV. The equipment provides enhanced audio quality and performance, said O’Conner.

The intercom also controls the entire

communication suite within the LAV. The G4

ICS gives Marines a single point-of-control for

radios, GPS systems and other technologies rather than having to independently manage each system.

“Not only is it simple to use, [G4 ICS] is interoperable with the existing communication suite within the Marine Corps platform,” said Kim Bowen, deputy program manager for LAV. “It also has the ability to easily add a wireless capability.”

In 2017, the Light Armored Reconnaissance Operational Advisory Group identified upgrading the LAV intercom system as their top priority after receiving complaints from Marines about the legacy ICS. A frequent criticism was the older-generation ICS experienced shutdowns causing a loss of communication and lengthy reboot times.

The G4 ICS is a modern ICS that is more fault-tolerant to LAV electrical fluctuations that cause ICS shutdowns and subsequent reboots. In the unlikely event that the G4 ICS does reboot, the G4 ICS will reboot in a few seconds, said O’Conner.

Stakeholder involvement

PM LAV incorporated Marine Corps stakeholders into the evaluation, assessment and selection process of the new ICS to ensure all parties participated in the selection of the system. The acquisition approach focused on assessing the technology’s value and utility for end users, and strategically conducting test and evaluation trials early in the process to better inform decisions, said O’Conner.

“By doing this, we can deliver an improved ICS to the fleet approximately a year earlier than if we followed traditional acquisition methods,” said O’Conner.

In June 2018, PM LAV conducted market research seeking viable candidates for a replacement intercom system. In April 2019, Marines representing all Light Armored Reconnaissance battalions assessed three candidate systems in a Systems Integration Lab during a user evaluation to provide feedback on performance, utility and usability.

After narrowing the search to two systems, a Limited User Evaluation took place in Twentynine Palms, California, and finished at Camp Pendleton, California, in August 2019.

In November 2019, Marine Corps Operational Test and Evaluation Activity—who helped plan the LUE and managed the conduct of the evaluation—provided an independent System Assessment Report, which provided data to support the selection of the G4 ICS. The SAR provided data that clearly showed the G4 ICS performed superior to its competitor.

“We wanted a reliable and easy-to-maintain system that would meet the current and future needs of the user.” said Steve Myers, MCSC’s program manager for LAV. “That is why [Marines] were involved in every step of the process.”

Initial Operational Capability for the new ICS is scheduled for fiscal year 2021, and Full Operational Capability is slated for fiscal year 2022.

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

USMC photo by LCpl Nathaniel Q. Hamilton






Next-Generation Bomb Suit Lightens Load for Marines

Wednesday, October 23rd, 2019

MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO, Va. —
Explosive Ordnance Disposal Marines will soon receive a lighter and more capable bomb suit for protection against various threats.

Fielding in 2020, the EOD Advanced Bomb Suit incorporates several 21st century, next-generation technological advancements intended to help EOD Marines withstand arduous conditions on the battlefield.

The system protects against severe injuries caused by blast overpressure, shrapnel, heat and impacts. The suit also comprises an elaborate integrated ventilation system to reduce heat stress and improve breathing.

“The new EOD bomb suit provides the warfighter with additional protection and flexibility,” said Fernando Pena, Marine Corps Systems Command’s project officer for the suit. “It is a superior suit compared with the previous system.”

In 2014, the Corps fielded an innovative bomb suit that has provided protection to the warfighter. However, because threats are ever-evolving, the need to find new ways to safeguard EOD Marines is paramount in carrying out missions and defeating adversaries.

Master Sgt. Zachariah Kindvall, an MCSC subject matter expert for the EOD bomb suit, says the new system helps meet the warfighter’s ever-changing needs.

“The new EOD bomb suit will add another level of personal protection equipment for Marines to use,” said Kindvall. “It provides a higher level of protection than what we currently have.”

The EOD suit meets or exceeds the performance and characteristics of the legacy system. For example, the newer system has a more ergonomic design, offers superior overall balanced protection, and provides greater situational awareness and operational capabilities, said Pena.

Kindvall noted how the suit offers more comfort, reducing the risk of fatigue. He said engineers emphasized the design and fitting of the suit, making it easier for the warfighter to maneuver. The clothing is also easier to don and doff compared with the previous system.

“The foot protection, in particular, is much easier to walk in and provides much more comfort and protection,” said Kindvall.

Additionally, the suit is significantly lighter than its older counterpart—a characteristic of the system Kindvall says can help Marines. Lightening the warfighter’s load is important because too much gear can wear on the warfighter. The new bomb suit reduces weight while also enhancing protection and communication.

“Lightening the load gives Marines more flexibility during missions—even if it is just a reduction of a few pounds,” said Kindvall. “That weight reduction can be significant.”

Both Pena and Kindvall are confident the system will be advantageous on the battlefield. As Pena explained, the warfighter can investigate and perform render-safe procedures involving an improvised explosive device knowing the suit’s added stability can protect them from serious impact and other hazards.

“We as a program office must be proactive in understanding the dynamic changes of today’s threats as well as future threats,” said Pena. “The new EOD bomb suit helps to support this idea.”

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