Scottsdale-based General Dynamics Decision Systems has delivered its first Unit Operations Center to the U.S. Marine Corps as part of a $600 million-plus, five-year contract.
The mobile command and control operations center will provide Marine commanders with standardized, portable workstations supporting data systems and other software.
Brig. Gen. William Catto, who is the commanding general of Marine Corps Systems Command, was on hand for the delivery of the first center at the Scottsdale facility.
“Battlefield commanders will have the power to decide and the certainty to act, utilizing information on digital smart boards, rather than paper maps,” he said. “The Unit Operations Center will re-host current Marine Corps mission application software, interface to current Marine Corps communication equipment and represent a much smaller footprint over the size, weight and flexibility of our current operation centers.”
This is the largest Marine Corps program ever executed by General Dynamics in Scottsdale, said Manny Mora, vice president and general manager of integrated systems.
“This is significant for us and it also is taking us a step with a new customer in a new area that we haven't been in before in the last few years,” he said. “We're integrating, not just software and hardware that we design here, but software and hardware from other companies, from other U.S. agencies. There's Army software in there and Air Force software in there.”
The Unit Operations Center delivered Friday will be tested by the 6th Marine Regiment at Camp Lejeune, N.C., where the Marines will evaluate how it solves command and control issues identified during the war with Iraq.
General Dynamics engineers are working with the Marines and providing training, and will be accepting feedback concerning what the Marines do and don't like, and making adjustments, Mora said.
“We're continuing what is called a limited-rate initial program,” he said. “This year we'll be building 13 of these to go to other units. We'll continue upgrades, and then Gen. Catto will make a production decision in October of next year. When they release that production decision, then we will go into high-volume production where we will be building up to 60 of these a year.”
The operations center sets up within 40 minutes. It has large screen displays that can take input from any workstation. Tents, trailers, radios, power generation and other tactical hardware are also included for command and control that can be deployed from air, ground or sea.
Traditionally, field comand centers include intelligence, operations and fire support coordination mapboards, and the commander and his/her staff huddle and make decisions and plans based on the information on the mapboards, said Maj. Sherman Bierly, the project officer at Marine Corps Systems Command for the operations center.
“Now with the UOC, all those maps are displayed digitally near real-time, and before a commander can come up with his decisions and courses of action, pretty much all of his staff members see what's happening on the battlefield and already know what kind of decision he is going to make because they all see the same thing.”
General Dynamics was awarded the Unit Operations Center contract in April 2002. It will deliver 355 operation centers to the Marine Corps by 2010.
“When you fight the enemy, your decision cycle needs to be faster than the enemy's, that's the key,” Bierly said. “As you'll see in Iraq, the time that you sense a target and the time that you can bring fires to bear on the target is the key. As other combatants' enemy forces start to also increase their decision cycle, you have to keep pace and be faster than them, make them respond, make them react to you. This gives you the capability to do that.”