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Common Aviation Command and Control System

USMC PEO Land Systems Programs 2011-2012

The Common Aviation Command and Control System (CAC2S) program aims to modernize the equipment of the Marine Air Command and Control System (MACCS) to remedy operational, technical, and performance deficiencies. It will eliminate dissimilar stove-piped legacy systems and provide standardized modular and scalable tactical facilities and common baseline hardware and software for all Marine Corps aviation command-and-control (C2) elements. The new equipment, carried on Humvees with trailers, will significantly increase battlefield mobility and reduce the physical size and logistical footprint of the MACCS.

At present, C2 functions such as airspace management, close air support, and air defense operations are performed using a variety of equipment, little of which is the same, with each component requiring specific training and maintenance. CAC2S will provide high commonality, which is expected to result in efficiencies and cost savings in training and logistics support.

As Navy Capt. Pat Costello, the CAC2S program manager within the Marine Corps’ Program Executive Office for Land Systems explained, “The first phase is to leverage two existing systems – the Combat Operations Center [COC] developed for Marine ground forces C2, and the MRQ-12 Humvee-mounted communications vehicle. We are developing the software and other modifications to them that are required for the COC, already produced by General Dynamics C4 Systems, to become CAC2S’s PDS and for the MRQ-12 to become its CS. We want to put an initial baseline capability into the hands of operational Marines as early as possible.”

The main capability of CAC2S will be implemented in the Tactical Air Command Center (TACC), the Direct Air Support Center (DASC), and the Tactical Air Operations Center (TAOC), which fall under a Marine Air Control Group at the Marine Air Wing. The TACC manages the wing’s air assets. The DASC communicates with aircraft and coordinates air assault, close air support, battlefield air interdiction, and other air operations in support of Marines on the ground. The TAOC performs air surveillance and controls air-to-air fighter and air defense operations.

CAC2S will have three Humvee-based components: the Processing and Display Subsystem (PDS), the Communications Subsystem (CS), and the Sensor Data Subsystem (SDS). The three combine to create one complete air C2 system. The Marine Corps restructured the CAC2S program in May 2009 to reduce technical risk. It adopted a revised acquisition strategy, implementation of which is in two phases.

As Navy Capt. Pat Costello, the CAC2S program manager within the Marine Corps’ Program Executive Office for Land Systems explained, “The first phase is to leverage two existing systems – the Combat Operations Center [COC] developed for Marine ground forces C2, and the MRQ-12 Humvee-mounted communications vehicle. We are developing the software and other modifications to them that are required for the COC, already produced by General Dynamics C4 Systems, to become CAC2S’s PDS and for the MRQ-12 to become its CS. We want to put an initial baseline capability into the hands of operational Marines as early as possible.”

Development of the SDS, which faced some fairly significant technical challenges, was deferred to Phase II. The SDS will integrate inputs from the various sensors that the Marine Corps uses, to include the planned Ground/Air Task-Oriented Radar (G/ATOR), as well as from tactical data links and other sources.

Costello said the CAC2S program during Phase I is working primarily with three government field activities: the Naval Surface Warfare Center (NSWC) Crane (Ind.), the NSWC Dahlgren (Va.), and the Marine Corps Tactical Systems Support Activity (MCTSSA) at Camp Pendleton, Calif., the service’s command, control, communications, computers, and intelligence (C4I) integration center. A Systems Integration Lab for CAC2S Phase I has been ongoing at Dahlgren.

The Phase I equipment completed its Critical Design Review in May 2010 and began development testing last July.

CAC2S Concept

CAC2S is planned to be transportable by helicopters, airplanes, amphibious ships, and landing craft. U.S. Marine Corps rendering

“An Operational Assessment (OA) was conducted last fall which led to a Milestone C limited deployment decision last November. An Initial Operational Test & Evaluation (IOT&E) was concluded this past April,” Costello said.

The CAC2S program released a request for proposals (RFPs) to industry last September 2010 for SDS technology demonstrations. Several one-year contracts were awarded in the fall.

“At the end of that year,” Costello said, “we will conduct a live demonstration at MCTSSA of the competing companies’ Phase II prototype systems. That will drive risk out of the program and help us better quantify the work to be done to achieve the full capability. Then we will downselect to a single vendor’s Phase II SDS solution with which to move forward to integrate with the Phase I system to meet our full set of requirements.”

Marine Corps Vision and Strategy 2025 indicates central to enabling the enhanced capabilities of our aviation platforms will be an aviation C2 family of systems that will fuse C2, sensor, weapons data, and information to provide a true common operational picture. This fused information will be distributed throughout the battlespace – from multifunctional C2 centers, to the cockpit, down to our distributed ground maneuver forces at the squad level – allowing for a level of awareness and decision making never before achieved and facilitating MAGTF and joint force integration, coordination, and employment. In the future, the ACE will be secure, network-enabled, and digitally interoperable to ensure it is responsive, persistent, lethal, and adaptive.

The SDS will fuse sensor inputs from expeditionary radars, as well as real-time and near real-time data from ground force C2 centers, weapon systems, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), and planned F-35B Joint Strike Fighters, into a common operational picture of the battlespace. Closer coordination of the Marine Corps’ ground and air C2 centers made possible in the future by the modern new equipment will allow speedy responses to changing battlefield conditions. Those responses could involve providing artillery fire, dispatching a UAV, launching or redirecting helicopters or fighter aircraft, dispatching a UAV to provide surveillance, sending in helicopters for medical evacuation of casualties, or using some combination of air and ground assets.

PEO LS intends to field CAC2S Phase I to the Operational Forces, contingent on a successful Full Deployment Decision Review (FDDR) later this year.

The Marine Corps plans to acquire a total of 50 complete systems in scaled configurations for the air wing level on down – particularly at the TACC, DASC, and TAOC. Some configurations are larger than others. For example, Costello said, the very large TACC will have 168 warfighter console operator positions.

This article first appeared in Marine Corps Outlook: 2011-2012 Edition.

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Glenn Goodman, senior editor of the Journal of Electronic Defense, is also a frequent contributor...