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Air Force declares TACP mobile communications system ‘combat ready’

TACPs operate the MCS Block 2 system at the 14 ASOS at Pope Army Airfield, N.C.

TACPs operate the MCS Block 2 system at the 14 ASOS at Pope Army Airfield, N.C.

HURLBURT FIELD, Fla. --

The U.S. Air Force’s Air Combat Command recently declared the initial operational capability for the tactical air control party mobile communications system Block 2 system ‘combat ready’ at the recommendation of the 605th Test and Evaluation Squadron, Hurlburt Field, Florida.

In the spring of 2020, the 605th TES TACP Element, in conjunction with the 14th Air Support Operations Squadron, Pope Army Airfield, North Carolina, conducted the operational utility evaluation, or OUE, of the MCS Block 2 on M-1165 armored high-mobility multipurpose wheeled vehicles.

As Air Combat Command’s independent, sole, command and control operational test unit, the 605th TES, tested the system under realistic conditions, using new and experienced Airmen, who will be operating and maintaining the system once fielded.

The OUE validated the operational effectiveness and suitability of MCS Block 2, cybersecurity and resiliency, and its impact on TACP and air support operations center tactics, techniques, and procedures.  

M1165 HMMWVs, better known as humvees, are integrated with multi-channel communications equipment through the MCS Block 2 system which provides voice, data, and video capabilities to TACP Joint Terminal Attack Controllers while “on-the-move” and “at-the-halt”.

“This new system gives TACPs greater mission flexibility by incorporating additional data link, full motion video, and high frequency radio capabilities while out in the field,” said Master Sgt. Jesus Torres, 605th TES senior enlisted leader and TACP.

JTACS will use MCS Block 2 to perform their close air support and command and control missions.
 
To achieve IOC, the MCS Block 2 system demonstrated the necessary combat capability for voice and video communications and had sufficient required fielding and logistics support.

“Through early involvement and by building relationships across the acquisition process the 605th TES was instrumental in providing early user feedback,” said Torres.  “During early DoD [Department of Defense] COVID Guidance, the 605th TES TACPs developed risk mitigation measures enabling regression testing to continue during the pandemic which allowed this vital capability be delivered to the warfighter five months ahead of schedule.”

“As our service takes positive steps to mature Agile Combat Employment concepts, through years of being disaggregated and embracing Mission Command, the TACP community is best positioned to inform the larger enterprise on what technology could be beneficial," said Col. Adam Shelton, 505th Test and Training Group commander.  “This IOC declaration will assist in furthering our integration efforts with joint partners in venues such as the Army’s Project Convergence or in tier 1 exercises such as Northern Edge.” 

As of August 2021, the 605th TES continues to accelerate change by conducting operational testing on the MCS Block 3, installed on the U.S. Army’s next-generation Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicle as a replacement for the M113 Armored Personnel Carrier family of vehicles.