Naval Information Warfare Center Atlantic engineers helped achieve initial operational capability nearly a year ahead of schedule for their integration work on the U.S. Marine Corps’ Joint Light Tactical Vehicle.
The JLTV is a high-tech, next-generation light vehicle created to theoretically replace the U.S. military’s Humvee in a one-for-one swap.
Leading up to IOC, NIWC Atlantic engineering teams proved the JLTV’s readiness at Marine schoolhouses, training commands and a II Marine Expeditionary Force infantry unit at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina—3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment.
Now, with more than 150 JLTVs operational at all three MEFs, the Fleet Marine Force has a truck capable of moving heaven and earth with seamless communications, reconnaissance, enemy-detection capabilities and multiple weapons system platforms — all with the grab, swipe or pinch of a commander’s fingers.
“It’s like going from a flip phone to a smartphone,” said Jay Moore, JLTV Total Package Fielding project lead for the expeditionary warfare department at NIWC Atlantic.
Two major contributions helped reach the IOC milestone on Aug. 2: a mobile test bench developed at NIWC Atlantic’s Land Systems Integration Facility and a flurry of engineering rigor at the command’s Digital Integration Facility.
The mobile kit, known as the “gold set,” is a master plan on wheels. It was designed so LSI technicians at fielding sites around the world could easily access command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance hardware and test equipment in one compact, centralized hub.
“It was a huge feat to get that made,” Moore said. “We had little to no time to come up with something, but we did whatever was needed to move us toward the finish line.”
Technicians using the gold set can perform critical testing functions for the JLTV and avoid the disarray of components in cardboard boxes sprawled out in the sand or mud.
Working in tandem, the DIF’s advanced engineering teams worked out C4ISR-related challenges by designing modifications and sending over prototypes to implement.
Chris Canning, a systems engineer at the DIF and JLTV technical lead at the facility, said his team provided the engineering precision behind much of those requests for C4ISR systems optimization.
“The TPF team has quality technicians really skilled at identifying areas to better fit Marine Corps requirements,” Canning said. “Then, we do the designing, many times from scratch. We make sure the drawings are all locked down, ensure the prototyping can begin.”
Following years of war in Iraq and especially Afghanistan, thousands of Humvees were up-armored to meet the demand for blast-proof vehicles. That led to the U.S. military’s quintessential all-terrain vehicle for over two decades losing payload and off-road agility. Similarly, the larger Mine Resistant Ambush Protected newcomer was safer but limited in the cross-country domain.
When it was clear that something different was needed, Department of Defense leaders sought to procure a truck designed from the ground up with modern automotive ingenuity and the latest C4ISR infrastructure.
Fast forward to August 2018, and the Marine Corps requested support from NIWC Atlantic to perform the testing and integration of communications equipment on JLTVs that were shipping directly from the manufacturer to the field.
Everything from onboard smart-screen displays and power supplies to amplifiers and radio transmitters required testing — and sometimes replacing — in addition to hundreds of items listed on 60 pages of inspection sheets.
Because such complex integration work would be substantially more difficult in the field than on base, the TPF team was forced to design a mobile kit.
“With the gold set, we can basically shut the door, roll it up and ship it wherever we need to go,” Moore said.
The gold set’s mobility and user-friendliness are its greatest assets, making the kit a huge hit within the Marine Corps G6 community, noted Jennifer Anderson, JLTV TPF field lead at NIWC Atlantic’s expeditionary warfare department. Building on that success, the LSI team created modification drawings to help other organizations reproduce the gold set elsewhere.
Anderson underscored the value of taking proven capabilities on base, packing them up and conveying them to the field.
“You can see how Jay’s team was able to design something that took [the integration] of a whole building and put it into a box to emulate elsewhere,” she said. “And it was created from scratch.”
Looking back over the past year, Pete Ward, LSI division chief, attributed much of his organization’s successes to collaboration across multiple disciplines.
“Everyone worked together to pull this off — early and fast,” he said. “It wouldn’t have happened if teams hadn’t appreciated and leveraged each member’s unique capabilities.”
NIWC Atlantic leadership echoed Ward’s remarks, also appreciating the agility of the expeditionary warfare department workforce for its part in achieving IOC early.
“This was the ultimate team of teams project,” said Pete Reddy, NIWC Atlantic acting executive director. “It’s a perfect example of how working across diverse teams, divisions and competencies builds positive interactions that can more effectively support the war fighter.”