CAMP PENDLETON, Calif.—Engineers and technical experts from Marine Corps Tactical Systems Support Activity conducted systems operability testing in September aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Boxer (LHD 4) in support of 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit operations.
Amphibious warships must be able to sail in harm’s way and provide a rapid buildup of combat power ashore in the face of opposition. This requires cyber-enabled network Marines to integrate shipboard systems, and provide combatant commanders real-time command and control capabilities.
"Whether you are fighting the ship or assaulting an objective, communications and information management are critical for mission success," said U.S. Navy Capt. Ronald Dowdell, Boxer's commanding officer. "The MCTSSA experts that came aboard the ship enhanced Navy and Marine Corps integration, and also enabled Boxer [Amphibious Ready Group] to become a more lethal force."
The 11th MEU is a forward-deployed, flexible sea-based Marine air-ground task force capable of conducting amphibious operations, crisis response and limited contingency operations, to include enabling the introduction of follow-on forces and designated special operations in order to support the theater requirements of geographic combatant commanders.
The primary objective for the MCTSSA team was to assist the 11th MEU in integrating tactical command, control, communications and computers—or C4—systems into the afloat environment.
For Marines aboard ship, the Landing Force Operations Center, or LFOC, is the primary space for leaders to plan and execute amphibious operations. The functions of the LFOC mirror those of a Combat Operations Center, controlling and monitoring all landing force activities until command is established ashore.
“The support received from MCTSSA enabled months’ worth of troubleshooting systems checks to be completed in days, setting the stage for the 11th MEU to move forward with greater confidence in our amphibious C4 systems,” said Capt. Jeffrey Robbins, 11th MEU assistant communications officer.
The time spent optimizing systems in the LFOC and Supporting Arms Coordination Center allowed the MEU to validate critical satellite communications and digital fires systems, which will be used to plan and execute landing force fire support and amphibious operations, said Robbins.
“Both the 11th MEU and MCTSSA were equally invested in the effort,” said Capt. Caleb Wu, MCTSSA assistant naval systems integration officer. “It was great to see the two teams tackle difficult technical issues side by side.”
Many of the C4 systems integration issues that MEUs face at sea include: physical connectivity, power, space, network accessibility and throughput, data and voice communications, system configurations, information assurance and cybersecurity.
“MCTSSA's presence onboard Boxer was absolutely invaluable, and they are the bridge that ensures that all blue in support of green communications suites are properly fine-tuned prior to the embarkation of the 11th MEU or any MEU,” said Ens. Joe Tran, Boxer communications officer. “All of our efforts are ultimately geared toward safe operations of the ship and supporting our combat power.”
Specifically, the testing supported engineering and risk reduction, identification, and possible elimination or development of work-arounds for any C4 interoperability issues.
“By resolving many of those concerns months prior to their first ‘at sea’ period, the 11th MEU is far more prepared for any work-up or deployment,” said Maj. Paxton Miller, MCTSSA naval systems integration officer. “As we better understand the requirements and challenges of how MEUs employ C2 systems aboard ship, the value of these events will continue to grow.”
Boxer is homeported at Naval Base San Diego. For more news from USS Boxer (LHD 4), visit www.navy.mil/local/lhd4/.
MCTSSA, an elite, full-scale laboratory facility operated by the Marine Corps, is a subordinate command of Marine Corps Systems Command. MCTSSA provides test and evaluation, engineering, and deployed technical support for Marine Corps and joint service command, control, computer, communications and intelligence systems throughout all acquisition life-cycle phases.