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Air Command and Control and Sensor Netting

PEO Land Systems: Marine Air Command and Control System, Composite Tracking Network, and Common Aviation Command and Control System are now all part of AC2SN.

When it came under the PEO Land Systems umbrella just a few years ago, the Marine Corps’ Common 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.

“Based on an Decision Memorandum signed by Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development and Acquisition [ASN(RDA)] [Sean J.] Stackley earlier this year, 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.

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 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 (CAC2S), 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.

Tactical Air Operations Module (TAOM)

U.S. Marines operate the Tactical Air Operations Module (TAOM) which plans, directs, and controls tactical air operations at Site 50, near Welton, Ariz., April 21, 2011. The CAC2S is intended to replace the aging TAOM. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Patrick P. Evenson

“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 One 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.”

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