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PM Air Command and Control and Sensor Netting

When it came under the PEO Land Systems umbrella just a few years ago, the Marine CorpsCommon Aviation Command and Control System (CAC2S) program was nearing its planned Initial Operational Test and Evaluation (IOT&E) milestone. However, there were many who felt that the proposed solution still fell short of the capability desired by the service.

“With the CAC2S program coming into the PEO, Mr. [William] Taylor took a really critical look at it,” explained Col. Rey Masinsin, Program Manager for Air Command and Control and Sensor Netting (PM AC2SN). “And he knew that it was just not going to make it. And that’s why we had to restructure into our current two-phase effort.”

Today, the restructured CAC2S is just one of the programs under the recently renamed AC2SN. Far more than just a name change, the new program office reflects an expanded portfolio that consolidates future capabilities with the legacy systems that they will ultimately replace.

Today, the restructured CAC2S is just one of the programs under the recently renamed AC2SN. Far more than just a name change, the new program office reflects an expanded portfolio that consolidates future capabilities with the legacy systems that they will ultimately replace.

“Based on a Decision Memorandum signed by Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development and Acquisition [ASN (RDA)] Mr. [Sean J.] Stackley in January 2012, the consolidation was intended to provide synergies of the legacy systems falling under the management of the modernization program manager, so that we can better and more efficiently use resources allocated for those systems,” Masinsin said.

Common Aviation Command and Control System (CAC2S)

Sgts. Joseph Colby (left) and Cody Crabb, tactical air defense controllers, Marine Air Control Squadron 24, 4th Marine Aircraft Wing, navigate the new Common Aviation Command and Control System (CAC2S) during the training portion of their Phase 1 fielding Sept. 12, 2013. The new system consolidates and improves upon the previous legacy command and control systems the squadron had been using. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Scott McAdam

The new portfolio includes three major programs.

“The first is the Marine [Air] Command and Control System [MACCS] Sustainment Program, a collection of Abbreviated Acquisition Programs [AAP] that incorporates all of the legacy systems that are currently fielded in the operating forces,” he said. “Second is the Composite Tracking Network [CTN], which is an ACAT [Acquisition Category] III program. The CTN is analogous to the Navy CEC [Cooperative Engagement Capability] and is the Marine Corps’ implementation of CEC. The third program is the Common Aviation Command and Control System, which is an ACAT IAC Major Automated Information System [MAIS] program that will replace several disparate fielded legacy systems out there being used within the Marine Air Command and Control System.”

Asked about the systems that will be replaced by CAC2S, Masinsin pointed to legacy equipment in three different agencies.

“First is the Tactical Air Operations Center [TAOC], which is responsible for coordinating the anti-air warfare mission of the Marine Corps,” he said. “CAC2S will replace the Tactical Air Operations Module [TAOM], which is already about 21 years old, as well as the TAOM’s follow-on system called Mobile Tactical Air Operations Module. The next agency is the Direct Air Support Center [DASC], which is principally responsible for coordinating assault support and air support missions for the Marine Corps. CAC2S is a new system for the DASC. In the past, the DASC has been a manual agency that relied on paper maps and manual status boards for situational awareness. CAC2S provides the DASC with automated tools and data links, resulting in better awareness and efficiency. Finally, CAC2S will replace the legacy systems in the Tactical Air Command Center [TACC]. CAC2S provides the facilities for the Air Combat Element’s command post and modernizes the tools for planning, monitoring, and executing the air battle plan. In addition, CAC2S upgrades the TACC’s communications system from the old AN/MRQ-12 to the new AN/MRQ-13.”

Reflecting on the CAC2S program restructuring that took place in 2009, Masinsin noted, “Our new acquisition strategy called for delivering the capabilities identified in our Capability Production Document [CPD] in two sequential phases. There are a couple of reasons that we took this approach. The first reason is that we wanted to minimize the technical risk to the program by initially going after the capabilities that are already mature and allowing more time for the more technically challenging portions of the CPD to be developed. The second reason we adopted the two-phase approach is that we wanted to deliver militarily useable capabilities to the fleet as early as we can, because we have aging equipment out there.

“For Phase 1 there are two subsystems that we are deploying to the operating forces: the Processing and Display Subsystem, and the Communications Subsystem. The Processing and Display Subsystem is the infrastructure and the computing environment for the system. It provides the physical command post facilities – the tents, chairs, tables, headsets – and the computing environment – the servers, routers, switches, and laptops used for visualization to the operating forces. The Communications Subsystem provides the radios and communications equipment for CAC2S.”

Noting that the new strategy also calls for using fielded systems as starting points for CAC2S Phase 1, he added, “So instead of us developing a new command post or developing a new communications system for aviation command and control, what we have done in the Marine Corps is to take the Combat Operations Center [COC], which is a currently fielded command post, as our starting point. Our task is to create a ‘change kit’ to upgrade that COC to make it into an air command and control system.

“We have an existing [command post] product already out there,” he continued. “But it’s not optimized for air command and control. We put in changes to make it optimized for air and ground C2 operations. That strategy not only reduces our technical risk but also provides cost avoidance by not having to buy new equipment.”

“We have an existing [command post] product already out there,” he continued. “But it’s not optimized for air command and control. We put in changes to make it optimized for air and ground C2 operations. That strategy not only reduces our technical risk but also provides cost avoidance by not having to buy new equipment.”

“Likewise, for our Communications Subsystem we take our currently fielded AN/MRQ-12 and install modification kits that turn them into a more capable and improved AN/MRQ-13. The changes are fairly minor. Essentially the changes add more capabilities and markedly improve the system’s information assurance posture,” he said.

In addition to optimizing the current ground command posts for air and ground roles, the initial phase of CAC2S will significantly enhance situational awareness by incorporating both ground and air pictures.

As an illustration, Masinsin offered, “As it stands right now, in our air C2 agencies, we have the air situation picture well developed. But what is absent is an integrated depiction of the ground picture. When we command and control air assets that are directly in support of Marine Air-Ground Task Force operations, it’s very important that we know exactly what the ground units are doing. So what we deliver in this first phase CAC2S capability is the combination of the ground picture and the air picture so that we can better develop synergies between the two.

“We are currently fielding CAC2S Phase 1 to the operating forces,” he said. “We achieved the Limited Deployment Capability [LDC] milestone in February of 2012 when we fielded to our formal schoolhouse at Marine Corps Communication-Electronics School and the first unit equipped, which is Marine Air Support Squadron 3, part of the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing at Camp Pendleton, Calif. Our successful fielding to those two entities was our criteria for declaring LDC.

“We recently completed the CAC2S Phase 1 fielding to the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing at Cherry Point, N.C.,” he continued. “At Cherry Point, we delivered equipment to Marine Air Support Squadron 1 [MASS-1], Marine Air Control Squadron 2 [MACS-2], and Marine Tactical Air Command Squadron 28 [MTACS-28]. Then the next fielding will be to our overseas unit in Okinawa, Japan, commencing in the second quarter of FY 13, and the final recipient of the first phase of CAC2S will be to Marine Air Control Squadron 24 (MACS-24), 4th Marine Aircraft Wing, U.S. Marine Corps Forces Reserve.”

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Scott Gourley is a former U.S. Army officer and the author of more than 1,500...