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MTACS-38 deploys a light-weight, amphibious aviation command post during exercise HYDRA 1-17

US Marine Corps News

By Cpl. Harley Robinson | July 18, 2017

Marine Tactical Air Command Squadron (MTACS) 38 conducted exercise HYDRA 1-17 to simulate ship-to-shore employment of a Tactical Air Direction Center (TADC) and integrate it with a simulated Navy tactical air control center (NTACC), at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, California, June 5-8.

A TADC is a task-organized facility that can perform all or most of the Marine tactical air command center (Marine TACC) tasks, such as coordinating the delivery of supplies, people or ordnance and synchronizing the actions of all Marine aviation assets in the area of operations, but is employed in a subordinate role.

During HYDRA 1-17, MTACS Headquarters acted as the NTACC that was afloat, and sequentially employed two TADCs, each with different sizes and capabilities, to East Miramar training area.

This evolution is not a new concept: Marine TADCs were employed during the Vietnam conflict, but have not employed ship-to-shore in combat since the 1950 Inchon invasion during the Korean War.

The first time MTACS-38 employed a TADC was during Weapons and Tactics Instructor Training 1-17, in October 2016.

Exercise HYDRA 1-17 proved the concept that an MTACS can perform the capabilities of a fully functional but smaller TADC, capable of being embarked on and lifted from an L-class ship while maintaining all required capabilities to support a Marine Expeditionary Brigade (MEB) or Amphibious Ready Group –Marine Expeditionary Unit.

"A smaller expeditionary TADC capability, one that ties in all the agencies of the Marine Air Command and Control System and/or host nation partner, and effectively integrates with the NTACC or a Marine TACC afloat, has the potential to significantly increase the effectiveness, information sharing, safety, and commander's ability to influence a situation during amphibious operations," said Capt. Tywan Turner, MTACS-38, weapons and tactics training program officer.

A small TADC can be employed early in an amphibious operation. It can move to a new location as the situation develops and it can later scale up into a larger and more capable TADC or even a TACC with additional assets. The scalability of it gives the Marine Air Ground Task Force (MAGTF) aviation command element (ACE) commander multiple flexible options to choose from to facilitate his/her command and control requirements, according to Lt. Col. James K. McBride, commanding officer of MTACS-38.

"The shortfall this TADC capability addresses is that, while today's MACCS provides effective ACE control for all-sized MAGTFs, it does not currently offer an effective command capability for MEB ACEs afloat," McBride added. "The TADC, working with the NTACC and ACE Marines afloat, provides a robust and flexible command ability for the MEB ACE commander."

After being employed ashore, the TADC can gradually build up capability via equipment and personnel to take on the TACC role from the NTACC, and airspace management functions can be officially passed from the Navy afloat to the Marines ashore.

"The size of the TADC is not dependent on the size of the MAGTF it supports," said Turner. "Size is based on the capabilities that it provides and the number of sorties it is required to manage or generate. The capabilities determine what equipment, personnel, external support and number of coordinators are needed for the mission, whether a Marine Expeditionary Unit, MEB or MEF is employed in theater."

The second phase of HYDRA 1-17 involved the Marines tearing down the first site and echeloning to a second objective area and building a larger TADC to support bigger and more persistent operations.

As control phased from the ship to the first TADC, the NTACC delegated a limited set of command and control authorities which enabled the TADC to command humanitarian assistance and tactical recovery missions ashore. As Marines conducted tear-down and echeloned to the second location, all authorities temporarily went back to the ship during the move.

After the larger TADC was built and became operational, the Marines were faced with obstacles from the notional White Cell consisting of 'bug pilots,' which are Marines with radios simulating higher, adjacent and subordinate agencies. The replication is to help simulate commanding those agencies in an actual combat zone.

The Marines conducted training in how to respond to enemy attacks, aircraft mishaps, coordinating the recovery of injured personnel, processing immediate requests, and keeping communication open between the simulated air and ground units.

The lessons learned from HYDRA 1-17 will be applied during future training.

A medium-sized configuration of a TACC at MCAS Yuma, Arizona, will be established, while they will simultaneously execute an actual ship-to-shore movement and set up a lighter, more expeditionary configuration of a subordinate TADC in the vicinity of Camp Pendleton.

"The next step is to produce detailed documentation of everything we've learned so far to codify, discuss and refine our concepts," Turner added. "As a MTACS community, it's imperative that we build sustainable inter-service training opportunities to integrate Marine and Navy aviation command and control."



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