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In recent years, intelligence experts have warned that new and emerging technologies could change and potentially revolutionize battlefield communications, effectively altering how Marines on the ground detect and locate their adversaries, communicate with each other, and direct operations.
To mitigate this risk and ensure Marines remain lethal on future battlefields, Marine Corps Systems Command recently fielded the Marine Corps Wideband Satellite – Expeditionary, or MCWS-X. MCWS-X is a man-portable, multiband, super-high frequency, multi-waveform satellite communications terminal that provides the warfighter resiliency and agility in the field.
Designed to be transported by a single Marine – and set up by that same Marine in less than 15 minutes – MCWS-X will allow Marines on the ground to quickly and securely connect to various SATCOM frequencies while providing high throughput rate.
In short, the warfighter gains speed.
“I think MCWS-X’s name says it all,” said Lt. Col. Wynndee Young, deputy program manager for Communications Systems at MARCORSYSCOM. “When Marines hear ‘expeditionary,’ they know they’re being empowered to do what Marines do best: quickly assess the situation, set up, conduct the mission, and exit safely in order to move on to their next assignment.”
“Thanks to this new capability, Marines can shoot, move, and communicate a lot faster than before,” said Frank Mello, product manager for Satellite Communications.
This gained capability ultimately aligns with Force Design 2030 goals, which call on the Corps to adapt, remain relevant, and out maneuver its adversaries by developing “smaller but better-connected formations that organically possess a complete kill chain appropriate to echelon, and that can prevail in a contested operating environment.”
Speed certainly increases lethality, but it also ties back to Force Design 2030’s stated goals by empowering small units of Marines to successfully conduct missions quickly and effectively.
Lt. Col. Wyndee Young, deputy program manager for Communications Systems at MARCORSYSCOM
“Speed certainly increases lethality, but it also ties back to Force Design 2030’s stated goals by empowering small units of Marines to successfully conduct missions quickly and effectively,” said Young.
“In practical terms, MCWS-X shortens the kill chain for Expeditionary Advanced Base Operations. That’s Force Design 2030,” Mello added.
But speed isn’t only a capability gained through MCWS-X; it can also be used to describe the acquisition process led by Young and her team.
After all, they went from concept to Full Operational Capability in under three years.
“What the SATCOM team has done in a short period of time is simply exceptional,” said Young. “MCWS-X was able to prove the effectiveness and efficiency of a [Middle Tier Acquisition] for Rapid Fielding by successfully navigating the acquisition framework through design, development, testing, and full fielding in 32 months.”
“The true value of the MTA process was revealed by accepting the appropriate level of technical risk while maintaining a high level of product quality and fielding a viable expeditionary SATCOM capability to the Fleet Marine Force,” she added.
But this feat in expediency did not deter the team from incorporating Marine feedback into the process, an important factor Young emphasized.
“Field user evaluations are important because they provide Marines with a hands-on opportunity to operate the equipment and provide feedback to both the acquisitions team and the vendor. This process allows us to better understand how the warfighter might actually use the capability in the field and preempt any challenges that could arise from equipment fielded by MARCORSYSCOM,” Young said.
“Field User Evaluations have really helped my team and me to better understand the impact our work has on the Fleet Marine Force,” said Young. “Their feedback, the hot washes, the process improvement … all of these factors allow us to incorporate Marine feedback into the acquisitions process, ultimately allowing us to field a product that will make the warfighter even more lethal.”
But the team isn’t done after the successful fielding of MCWS-X; now, they’re literally shooting for the stars.
“The SATCOM team is focused on the future. We are working to give our Marines options and the ability to execute communications in layers. While MCWS-X has the ability to connect to various SATCOM frequencies, we’re presently looking at mods to actually tackle different orbits out in space,” said Mello. “It’s really not too early to implementing multi-orbit, multiband capability.”
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