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MILITARY TECHNOLOGY (MILTECH) is the world's leading international tri-service defence monthly magazine in the English language. MILITARY TECHNOLOGY is "Required Reading for Defence Professionals". Follow us on Twitter: MILTECH1

29 September 2016

MDM16: Modern Day Marine 2016 Day 2 (September 28, 2016) Report

US correspondent Marty Kauchak files the following exclusive report on significant news and developments gained from delegates, exhibitors and others in the expeditionary warfare community.

Service Updates 

The Marine Corps continues to move beyond the last 15 years of ground war in Afghanistan and Iraq and turn its attention to possible combat missions against near-peer and global competitors.  

To help adjust its warfighting focus, the service today released a new operating concept to include a renewed emphasis on maneuver warfare, while retaining an emphasis on operations in an urban littoral environment against a technologically sophisticated enemy.

In an unvarnished, matter-of-fact assessment, the Marine Corps Operational Concept (MOC) begins with the admission that today’s force is not organized, trained and equipped to succeed in a future operating environment where terrains and their populations are complex, technology has proliferated, information is used as a weapon, detecting enemy signatures and managing the Marines’ own signatures is paramount, and the maritime domain is increasingly contested.

Commandant of the Marine Corps General Robert Neller said today at the Modern Day Marine: “Do we need to fix something? Are we broken? … That has nothing to do with it, but we’ve been fighting a counterinsurgency stability fight … since 2004, and we’ve trained, equipped and organized the force to do counterinsurgency and fight an insurgent.”

Marine Corps Command, General Robert Neller (center),asserted today at Modern Day Marine, “Do we need to fix something? Are we broken? … That has nothing to do with it, but we’ve been fighting a counterinsurgency stability fight … since 2004, and we’ve trained, equipped and organized the force to do counterinsurgency and fight an insurgent.”

Noting the insurgent who fought his Marines was brave and courageous, he continued, “that insurgent didn’t have electronic warfare. That insurgent didn’t have an air force. That insurgent didn’t have effective indirect fire. That insurgent … didn’t have the ability to take down our networks or jam our comms. That insurgent didn’t have armor formations that could maneuver across a battlespace. That insurgent didn’t have a sophisticated information operations plan to deceive not just our force but the American people.”

In preparation for that future enemy and future fight, the MOC calls for a Marine Air-Ground Task Force optimized to, “execute maneuver warfare through a combined arms approach that embraces information warfare as indispensable for achieving complementary effects across five domains – air, land, sea, space, and cyberspace.”

Elsewhere in the service, in order to ensure relevance for the US Marine Corps’ M1A1 ABRAMS Main Battle Tank into the next decade, the service is funding upgrades on the legacy tank fleet.

Barbara Hamby, a spokesperson for Marine Corps Systems Command (MARCORSYSCOM), noted in one instance the service is modernising the tank commander’s weapon station on the tank by developing a suite of systems that give tank commanders and their gunners a hunter-killer edge over their enemies.

The new ABRAMS Integrated Display and Targeting System, Tank Commander Single Handle and an untitled slew-to-cue capability make up the modernized three-part system that cuts time to enemy engagement by half while increasing accuracy, range and lethality on the battlefield.  “The ABRAMS Integrated Display and Targeting System (AIDATS), upgrades the thermal and day sights on the stabilised commander's weapon station through a state-of-the-art, high-definition camera and permanently mounted color display,” Hamby pointed out.

The ABRAMS Integrated Display and Targeting System, (AIDATS) upgrades the thermal and day sights on the stabilized commander’s weapon station through a state-of-the-art, high definition camera and permanently-mounted color display. The AIDATS program is part of a suite of systems being developed at MARSYSCOM to increase the accuracy, range and lethality of the M1A1 Abrams tank on the battlefield. 

With AIDATS, tank commanders will have double the identification range with thermal sight and triple the identification range for the day sight. The Quantico-based media expert further explained: “The tank commander single handle is also being improved. Currently, there are two sets of controls: one for the stabilized commander's weapon station and another to operate the turret. Combining the two handles into one gives the commander a better workspace, increases efficiency of the system, and leads to faster engagement times.”

The third upgrade to the tank commander's weapon station has yet to be officially named, but is currently referred by service tankers as “slew-to-cue”. Hamby continued: “This new capability enables the tank commander to move the turret, typically controlled by the gunner, over to a target with the push of a button. This additional capability allows the commander to assist the gunner when the tank is moving, making it easier to manipulate the turret toward a target.”

This 13 September, MARCORSYSCOM awarded a contract to Raytheon for continued work on AIDATS. The service expects to field all three systems simultaneously in first quarter 2018.

Exhibitor Perspectives 

Normally this author shies away from having his photo taken and displayed in a public venue, So it was with some interest when he saw his image projected on a video wall at CineMassive (Booth 1116).

While video walls are increasingly common in US DoD headquarters, the Atlanta-based company is taking this technology to a higher level.

The Scalable Mobile Display (SMD) is an expeditionary video wall system optimized for use in shelters, forward operating bases, and other rugged environments. It enables teams in these environments to visualise critical data and collaborate over a real-time common operating picture.

The Scalable Mobile Display is an expeditionary video wall system optimised for use in shelters, forward operating bases, and other rugged environments. It allows teams in these environments to visualise critical data and collaborate over a real-time common operating picture. 

Megan Kopacko, a public relations & social marketing specialist at the company, pointed out: “The SMD can be deployed quickly and easily and can be packed into cases for easy transport. While designed for portability, the SMD is a fully-integrated, turn-key video wall solution; it includes a mobile mounting frame, high-resolution LCD displays, a video wall controller, control software, and transport cases. Optional expansion packages – including professional-grade audio, video teleconferencing systems, and ruggedized UPS – can also be added.”

Robert Kaufman, a company co-founder, noted “SMD systems are being deployed by several branches of the US military and special operations forces downrange.”

The SMD can be deployed with display configurations of 2x2, 4x2, or 6x2 and can be assembled by two people in 15 to 30 minutes without tools. Once assembled, the system can capture and display content from virtually any device, including digital and analog sources. A basic SMD system supports 8 input sources, and up to 16 additional inputs can be added.

Content displayed on a SMD system might include live camera feeds, satellite footage, maps, and video teleconferencing systems. CineNet video wall software, which comes included with the SMD system, allows operators to easily control the content on the displays.

Kopacko continued: “We anticipate that further enhancements to the SMD system will be primarily driven by feedback from our customers. Because the SMD is an expeditionary product, we want to ensure that its design is kept simple and functional and that all enhancements provide real value to the end-user. By staying connected with the teams using the product in the field every day, we gather invaluable feedback for guiding ongoing upgrades and enhancements.”

Kaufman concluded: “The SMD system is the product of close cooperation between CineMassive and our special operations partners. We thank them for their expert feedback and guidance throughout the development process – and above all, we thank them for the service they provide to our nation.”

We’ve started to deliver JLTVs this month," John Bryant, president of Oshkosh Defense, told MT.  
JLTV (Joint Light Tactical Vehicle) is the next generation replacement for the US Army and Marine Corps armored HMMWVs. The JLTV has the potential to be a U$30 billion programme.

The JLTV has been making appearances around the globe this summer and fall – at Eurosatory, the Dynamic Vehicle Demonstration this month in Bedfordshire, England at Millbrook Proving Grounds and at MDM this week. Oshkosh’s focused business development program through the last several years has, in part, raised the vehicle’s brand awareness in military establishments around the globe. “We’ve been extensively marketing M-ATV and now L-ATV,” Bryant added, and noted the persistent interest in new JLTV in Europe and the Middle East.

While the first production vehicles are intended to help reduce future production risk and serve as the first assets for JLTVs performance and operational testing, some enthusiasts appear to be getting ahead of themselves. Indeed, in one industry forum this summer it was suggested JLTV serve as one option for the Army’s embryonic Light Reconnaissance Vehicle.

However, programme and budget realities call for about 4,900 vehicles to be procured during low-rate initial production.

And adding another layer of reality, Bryant concluded, “The JLTV programme will reach full-rate production decision milestone in first quarter fiscal year 2019.”

UK-based Morgan Advanced Materials (Booth 3127) portfolio of advanced armoured systems for personal protection and platform protection continues to expand. At MDM, Morgan’s new Lightweight Armoured Soldier Architecture (LASA) LWA III +109 plate is on display. “It is a special ultra-lightweight plate we have just released to deliver multi-hit protection against ‘Green Tip’ SS109 ammunition, special threats and NIJ 0101.06 Level III,” Andy Gaskell, a sales and marketing executive for the company, told MT.

UK-based Morgan Advanced Materials had its new LASA LWA III +109 plate on display.The ceramic and UHMWPE (ultra-high-molecular-weight polyethylene) composite-based LASA LWA III +109 was reported to deliver multi-hit protections against the following special threats and to NIJ 0101.06 Level III: 7.62 x.51mm 149gr M80 FMJ and 7.62 x39mm PS Ball (mild core steel).

Further the ceramic and UHMWPE (ultra-high-molecular-weight polyethylene) composite-based LASA LWA III +109 was reported to deliver multi-hit protections against the following special threats and to NIJ 0101.06 Level III: 7.62 x.51mm 149gr M80 FMJ and 7.62 x39mm PS Ball (mild core steel).

The company is also finding a “sweet spot” as it offers products with buoyant and water resistant properties for special forces, and naval and coast guard use. Indeed, the New LWA III +109 has these performance capabilities.  

The ballistic insert weighs just 1.6kg (3.5 lb) and has a thickness of 21+/- 1 mm (.83 in.+/-   .04in.). This ballistic insert offers an outstanding lightweight alternative to a heavy Level IV plate whilst ensuring military and law enforcement personal are protected against the SS 109 round,” the sector expert concluded.

Senior Marine Corps leadership’s continued request of industry to “help lighten the load” for ground forces and other units is resonating in at least one company. Thornton, Colorado-based Ascent Solar Technologies introduced its new MilPak ruggedized portable solar platform – with weight in mind. The product is a ruggedised solar power generation and storage system designed to withstand harsh environments and operate in expeditionary and other operational theatres.

The platform’s current weight of 3.7kg (8.2 lbs.), “may be further reduced to about five-or-six pounds by next quarter,” Joe Kigin, senior director and head of Worldwide Sales and Business Development at the company, said                  

The US Department of Defense's programme of record remains at 200 for the CH-53K King STALLION aircraft. The “K” version, being built by the Sikorsky (a Lockheed Martin company (Booth 2522)-led industry team, will replace the US Marine Corps’ service’s legacy-era -53 models.

Michael Torok, PhD, Sikorsky vice president for CH-53K Programs, updated MT on the programme’s accomplishments in the last 90 days: the CH-53K King STALLION successfully completed external lifts up to 27,000lbs (12, 247kg) payload and achieved flight speeds over 140 knots; and the third and fourth CH-53K King STALLION helicopters have joined the flight test programme thereby accelerating the pace to full aircraft maturity and production.

This June the CH-53K King Stallion successfully completed an external lift of a 27,000 lb (12,247 kg) payload at Sikorsky’s (a Lockheed Martin Company) Development Flight Test Center.

The Sikorsky team remains on track to deliver the first of four Ks in 2017 to the USMC. Additionally in 2017, the Sikorsky team expects system demonstration test article 5&6 contract award; and the completion of initial operational test evaluation, the executive production readiness review, and Milestone C decision. Milestone C is the Pentagon’s acquisition point where a recommendation is made, or approval is sought, to enter a programme production and deployment phase

The Marine Corps’ initial operating capability for the CH-53K remains scheduled for 2019. As this article was submitted, the Marine Corps intends to stand up eight active duty squadrons, one training squadron, and one reserve squadron to support operational requirements.

Richard Gilpin, the deputy program manager for the CH-53K Heavy Lift Helicopter at Sikorsky, commented on the status of possible sales of the K to an overseas customer. “The German government has requested pricing and availability from the US Government. Sikorsky has the flexibility to respond to any German acquisition strategy be it in foreign military sale or direct commercial sale.”

The US Marine Corps declared IOC (initial operational capability) with its Lockheed Martin F-35B LIGHTNING II Joint Strike Fighter on July 31, 2015. The major milestone appears to be a major turning point in this program, leaving a host of criticisms about the aircraft’s cost, delivery timeline, software, engines and other matters in its wake.      

Indeed, the service’s F-35B’s maiden deployment is set for late 2017 with the first “B” squadron bound for the Western Pacific.

Attention is shifting to other readiness and sustainment programme components including the Autonomic Logistics Information System (ALIS). The system enables F-35 operators to plan ahead to maintain and sustain its systems over the life cycle of an air vehicle. Arthur “Turbo” Tomassetti, the company’s F-35B program director, was asked how the F-35B ALIS is responding to the pre-deployment preparations of the first set of Bs with the Navy-Marine Corps amphibious force. The industry expert responded, “Not really any specific pre-deployment actions for ALIS other than fielding systems and upgrades to the sites and the ships that have that capability. We are supporting the government with studies and analysis regarding ‘First Ship’ deployments for F-35B and F-35C [US Navy’s variant]. This fall the F-35B will embark on it third shipboard developmental test effort intended to clear the full envelope of SDD (system development and demonstration)-required capabilities for the aircraft operating at sea.”

The F-35 international program has an evolving, embryonic global maintenance network envisioned to conduct depot and related higher-order repairs at key sites around the globe. Tomassetti was asked how repairs beyond the first-to-deploy squadron’s capabilities would be completed. He pointed out depot-level repairs today are only done in the US. “Other than that we would send a team if required to the jets location for repair.

Tomassetti discussed the milestones on the F-35B programme’s near-term roadmap from the original equipment manufacturer’s perspective. “For USMC, over the next 12 months we will complete deliveries of LRIP [low rate initial production] 8 (six jets in total in that LRIP) and begin deliveries of LRIP 9 (nine jets in total in that LRIP). Aircraft from earlier LRIPs continue to receive modifications as they become available. Jets are being upgraded to the latest 2B (unit level mod 2 left to go) software and 3i (unit level mod 2 left to go) software. Plan to begin loading 3F software on the 3i jets in late summer 2017.”

The US Marine Corps declared initial operational capability with its Lockheed Martin (Booth 2522) F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter (above) on July 31, 2015. The service’s F-35B’s maiden deployment is set for late 2017 with the first “B” squadron bound for the Western Pacific. 

MT readers will recall major “bugs” reported in early F-35 block software versions included jets’ systems shutting down and having to be rebooted. This “choking” effect, which pilots saw both in the air and on the ground during startup, was caused by a timing misalignment of the software of the plane’s sensors and the software of its main computers. Those and other instability and related software problems are reportedly being corrected in these later version upgrades.

Tomassetti concluded, “The squadrons are more and more doing the things that legacy squadrons do. Exercises, weapons school classes, airshows, and support of Marine Ground forces. Additionally this year the first two ‘new’ pilots began training. Until now all F-35 pilots have been transition pilots from other aircraft with lots of flight experience. These new students are coming straight from the training command. The first two students are on track to complete in December. This is another display of confidence in the maturity of the aircraft by the Marine Corps.”

It was one of those well scripted media availabilities. Attendees at SAIC’s (Booth 2310) senior- level management’s update on its US Marine Corps amphibious vehicle programs were positioned at arms’ length between two vehicles from the integrator’s major programs, one extending the service life of the legacy fleet – the Amphibious Assault Vehicle Survivability Upgrade (AAV SU) and the new – its contender for the ACV 1.1 programme, designed to replace part of the AAV force.

This 4 March delivered the first of 10 AAV SU vehicles for testing to the Marine Corps.
Following the initial delivery of the AAV SU, the Marine Corps Program Executive Officer (PEO) Land Systems at Quantico has approximately 12 months to test and evaluate SAIC’s solution. Those 10 vehicles will be tested on land and in the water to assess whether engineering improvements are needed before SAIC is awarded a contract to begin low-rate production and delivery.

SAIC, as integrator, has nine teammates, including hull manufacturer Demmer Corp. of Lansing, Michigan.

Demmer provides keel armor and internal aluminum armor. The company is also responsible for removing the ridged, bolted-on Enhanced Applique Armor Kit armor and installing new attach points to the sides where upgraded ceramic armor panels will be bolted on. The external ceramic armor, as well as the spall liner and fuel and buoyancy systems are manufactured by Armatec Survivability Corp. of Ontario.

While survivability –from pronounced to the subtle -- of crew, passengers and the vehicles themselves -- is the hallmark of the program, there are tradeoffs the Marine Corps-industry team is accepting.

In one instance, the ceramic panels designed to better protect the crew and vehicle is adding weight. While industry team members declined to note the specific amount, this development was important enough to force several important decisions. While the suspension has been upgraded, each vehicle will also get a Cummins VT903 engine that boosts horsepower from 525 to 675, as well as a new power take-off unit and KDS (Kinetics Drive Solutions) transmission.

SAIC's contender for the USMC ACV 1.1 competition is ST Kinetics TERREX 2. (Photo: ST Kinetics)

Integration to upgrade legacy-era AAVs is occurring at SAIC’s facilities in Hanahan (Charleston), South Carolina. SAIC is relying on the mature, proven fielded solution, instead of a “clean sheet” option, afforded by the 24-tonne TERREX 1, which is in service with the Singapore Army to win the USMC ACV 1.1 competition. To that end, SAIC’s contender is the TERREX 2, also an 8x8.

Tony Herlihy, a vice president for Business Development for US Marine Corps programmes at SAIC, passionately spoke about the human factors engineering process for the Terrex 2. Recalling that embarked crews and passengers may have to remain in the vehicle up to two hours during ship-to-shore movement in sea state 3, he noted extensive research and development addressed how to reduce the pitch, yaw and roll of this waterborne vehicle. “They have to be ready to fight when the ramp is dropped and they must egress the vehicle,” he emphasised.

SAIC's TERREX 2 8x8 (by ST Kinetics) at Modern Day Marine)

The SAIC lead team appears comfortable with its 600hp Caterpillar turbodiesel providing adequate power and propulsion through anticipated mission sets.  

Herlihy and Bernie Ellis, SAIC ACV 1.1 program manager, also emphasised their industry team’s intent to allow the crew to operate in a “closed hatch mission”. To supply that capability, the vehicle is equipped with day/night 360 degree situational awareness from ten fusion cameras, and other onboard equipment.              

Marty Kauchak