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CHIPS Articles: MCTSSA improves shipboard communication for Marines

MCTSSA improves shipboard communication for Marines
Integrates Marine Corps C4 systems within the shipboard network environment
By Matt Gonzales, MCSC Office of Public Affairs and Communication - January-March 2020
MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO, Va. -- A core objective of Marine Corps Tactical Systems Support Activity is to conduct Command, Control, Communication and Computer systems interoperability testing to effectively integrate Marine Corps and Navy systems. In January 2020, they did just that.

Over a two-week period, the MCTSSA Naval Integration Team conducted a System of Systems Operability Test, or SOTS, aboard USS America—while underway from Sasebo to Okinawa, Japan—to validate the interoperability of Marine Corps C4 systems within the shipboard network environment.

The purpose of the testing was to ensure Marine Corps C4 technologies and Navy-provided shipboard communication systems functioned as designed and were interoperable with one another. The intent is to ultimately increase Forward Deployed Naval Forces’ combat readiness.

“The idea is to test all systems so we can ensure Marine Corps and Navy communications equipment are ready at a moment's notice,” said Maj. Ryan Hamilton, the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit Communications Officer, who was involved in the testing.

MCTSSA’s SOTs were created to identify, assess and remedy Marine Corps system integration issues aboard ship. The SOT teams develop and implement engineering solutions to correct and optimize MEU C4 integration with their assigned amphibious ships.

Aboard the USS America, the MCTSSA SOT team included a group of 13 Marines and civilians who rode the ship during transit and conducted communication testing alongside sailors and Marines from 31st MEU.

“In 2014, we started doing SOTs and these events are now conducted for nearly every MEU,” said Maj. Ryan Ackland, a naval systems integration officer at MCTSSA. “However, this SOT was the first time we integrated F-35B capabilities into shipboard systems.”

During several F-35B Lightning II flights while underway, the team tested various communication capabilities with shipboard Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Combat Systems and Intelligence—or C5I—systems to support digital fires and targeting. In doing so, they demonstrated several key mission capabilities for the first time.

“Most of this testing has never before been done in a shipboard environment; some of it never even on land,” said Ackland. “The capabilities we demonstrated are significant.”

MEU Marines expressed gratitude to MCTSSA for their efforts in integrating communication capabilities. Hamilton said MCTSSA has visited Japan multiple times over the past year to test many Navy and Marine Corps systems in detail, help train Marines and Sailors, and introduce MEU Marines to new capabilities.

“We at the 31st MEU are very appreciative of the outstanding support we've consistently received from the team at MCTSSA and from our Navy brothers and sisters,” said Hamilton. “We hope to see the MCTSSA team again in the future, as they are a force multiplier for Forward Deployed Naval Forces combat readiness.”

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The Naval Integration Team at Marine Corps Tactical Systems Support Activity, aboard the USS America, poses in front of an F-35B Lightning II aircraft Jan. 18, in Okinawa, Japan. In January, the team conducted a System of Systems Operability Test aboard USS America to validate the interoperability of Marine Corps communication systems within the shipboard network environment. (U.S. Navy photo by Seaman Jonathan Berlier)
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