Aviation C2 Platform Gives Marines a Step Up
By the end of 2012, U.S. Marine Corps aviation experts plan to have the Corps equipped with a common command and control (C2) platform that not only will improve situational awareness and information assurance (IA), but also will ramp up mobility as well. The technology behind this advance is the Marine Corps' Common Aviation Command and Control System (CAC2S), which aims to provide closer coordination of the Marine ground and air C2 centers, allowing more speedy responses to changing battlefield conditions. Technology Editor George I. Seffers details the system and its goals in his article "360 Degrees to Afghanistan" in this issue of SIGNAL Magazine. Possible system abilities include providing artillery fire, dispatching unmanned aircraft and launching or redirecting helicopters or fighter aircraft. It is a scalable, modular, flexible communications system with an open architecture design. The system can be deployed on a Humvee within 24 hours of receiving a movement order and can be transported via helicopter, airplane, amphibious ship and landing craft. The CAC2S is designed to provide Marine Corps operators the ability to share mission-critical voice, video, sensor and C2 data to integrate aviation and ground combat planning and operations to support the Marine Air Ground Task Force (MAGTF).
The MAGTF commander should be able to employ the system in support of operational maneuvers from the sea, sustained operations ashore and other expeditionary operations. It also will enable command and control of assigned assets afloat and ashore in allied, joint or coalition operational environments by displaying a common tactical data picture. That picture will facilitate C2 of friendly assets and the engagement of threat aircraft and missiles. It also will provide access to theater and national intelligence sources from a single, multifunction C2 node.
The pending deployment into Afghanistan marks a major turn-around for a program that was restructured in 2009 because of numerous technical difficulties. The previous solution was proceeding toward an initial operating test but faced hurdles related to network stability, IA, implementation and other technical challenges.
The system was fielded to the Marine Corps Communications-Electronics School, Twentynine Palms, California, in December and began fielding in January to the Marine Air Support Squadron III, Camp Pendleton, California. The Marines expected to declare initial operational capability officially in February.
According to Capt. Pat Costello, USN, CAC2S program manager within the Marine Corps' Program Executive Office for Land Systems, the idea was to aim for mature technologies and to integrate them together to meet requirements. The CAC2S also will substantially improve mobility, Costello insists:
We're reducing the footprint of the system pretty significantly. We go from a system that's in 10 x 20-foot shelters to a Humvee-based system.
The Marines plan to purchase a total of 50 systems, despite the ongoing austere budget environment. The CAC2S is fully funded, and the program's first phase came in under budget, returning some money back to the Marine Corps.
Even as the nation's oldest military service, the Marine Corps still looks to the future as it improves upon its capabilities, keeping itself relevant and interoperable. Will its most recent endeavor to date, the CAC2S, continue this tradition of excellence and commitment? Share your views and suggestions here.