CAMP PENDLETON, Ca — U.S. Marines with Marine Tactical Air Command Squadron (MTACS) 38 and Marine Wing Communication Squadron (MWCS) 38, Marine Air Control Group 38, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, established a tactical air direction center (TADC) at Camp Pendleton, California, Oct. 28, 2017.
A TADC is a task-organized facility that can perform most of the Marine tactical air command tasks, act as the long arm of the Navy tactical air control squadron, integrate with the theater air-ground system, and provide a touchpoint for afloat command centers into the Marine air command and control system (MACCS).
The MTACS-38 and MWCS-38 Marines established the TADC as part of Exercise Dawn Blitz 2017, which is a scenario-driven exercise designed to train Expeditionary Strike Group 3 and 1st Marine Expeditionary Brigade (1st MEB) in amphibious operations.
The MTACS-38 Marines operated aboard the USS Essex to integrate with the Global Command and Control System – Maritime (GCCS-M) in order to improve connectivity between the GCCS-M and the MACCS in advance of establishing the TADC ashore. The MTACS-38 Marines then utilized the TADC ashore to communicate with the aviation combat element (ACE) commander aboard the USS Essex during Dawn Blitz.
“As we are returning to our amphibious roots, we need a way to be able to provide redundant communications and be able to push command authorities from ship to shore for increased situational awareness, flexibility and faster response time,” said Capt. Heidi Sykas, an air defense control officer with MTACS-38.
The limited spacing aboard ship restricts the access of a Marine tactical air command center (TACC).
While embarked, the ACE commander does not have a dedicated command facility, said Lt. Col. James McBride, the commanding officer of MTACS-38. The TADC provides a platform from which the ACE commander can conduct operations – integrated with Navy and Marine command and control assets afloat – and extends and enhances the ACE commander’s ability to communicate across the battlespace.
The adaptable and expeditionary nature of the TADC enhances the ACE commander’s ability to direct and command aircraft from ship to shore.
“A TADC can fit on the ship required to support a MEB and be flown ashore with organic aviation assets,” said McBride. “An ACE commander has the flexibility to employ these assets ashore in situations when it is permitted.”
The TADC established during Dawn Blitz was flown into the helicopter outlying landing field by two CH-53E Super Stallions and set up in a Base-X 305 shelter system. The compact size of the tent allows an ACE commander to employ a TADC wherever they see fit, facilitating better communication between the commander and those assets ashore.
“The ships have great command and control capability,” said McBride. “But they are limited by their infrastructure, by how many antennas they have, and by how many links they can establish to get an air picture, communicate with aircraft and with MACCS agencies ashore, and even between the ships.”
The TADC can augment and enhance the capabilities of a Marine TACC. The TADC can act as a redundant TACC if the primary one is compromised and can be used as a forward element that is designed to mature into a TACC later in an operation.
The TADC acts as a command and control node that provides a conduit for information between the MACCS and naval ships. Neither are new capabilities, but these capabilities haven’t been used in many years. According to McBride, the TADCs have not been employed in combat since the Vietnam War and not employed from ship to shore since the 1950 Inchon landing during the Korean War.
“The battles fought in the Middle East were not as kinetic as the battles during the Vietnam War,” said McBride. “We had air superiority, and the enemy was disorganized.”
The MTACS-38 Marines’ use of the TADC during Dawn Blitz is a revitalization of basic aviation command and control functions in support of amphibious operations. The MTACS-38 Marines plan to continue refining their employment of the TADC during future exercises.