Tactical Air Operations
Modular Control Equipment (MCE)
The Marine Corps Tactical Air Operations Modules (TAOM) and the Air Force Modular Control Equipment (MCE) are used by Air Control Squadrons. The TAOM/MCE is a sheltered, transportable command, control, and communications facility. It provides the necessary equipment to plan, direct, and control tactical air operations and to perform specified airspace management tasks. The AN/TYQ-23 is the keystone of the Ground Theater Air Control System (GTACS), constituting an automated computer-based information system operating in a proprietary environment that provides a variety of automated information functions such as aircraft surveillance, flight follow, control, and communication functions within the GTACS.
MCE is part of a Joint Program with the United States Marine Corps (USMC). The USMC equivalent of the MCE is the Tactical Air Operations Module (TAOM). The Marine Corps TAOM is included in the current core of the Block I Global Command and Control System GCCS)--Unified Build and designated as a Category II -- Legacy System (non Core Application). Even though MCE and TAOM are nearly identical, MCE is identified as an "other" system in the GCCS environment and not a legacy or migration system.
The MCE was developed to replace aging control equipment fielded under previous programs and to introduce tactical and operational flexibility upgrades to the CRP and CRC components of the Air Force Theater Air Control System [TACS] and the Marine Corps USMC Tactical Air Operations Center [TAOC].
The Air Control Squadron (ACS) Control and Reporting Center (CRC) support to theater air operations includes radar surveillance and tracking on a priority basis, direction of sector air defense, providing radar service to tactical aircraft, supervision of subordinate deployed air control units, and data link of a combined air picture to higher headquarters. The MCE was designed to be a modularized, transportable, automated command and control system capable of controlling and coordinating the employment of a full range of air defense weapons. The Control and Reporting Element (CRE) usually employs two interconnected MCE OMs, and the Control and Reporting Center [CRC] employs four. Within GTACS, the MCE Operations Module interfaces directly with up to four AN/TPS-75 radars. They also receive and forward aircraft track data from a variety of platforms including the Air Force E-3, Navy E-2, and Joint STARS airborne command and control platforms, and Army weapons systems. Voice and data communications are available via internal UHF/VHF/HF radios and external communications devices such as radios, landlines, and TRI-TAC circuits selectable from operator positions.
The TAOM is a transportable, modularized, automated command and control element designed for the purpose of controlling and coordinating the employment of aircraft and surface-to-air missiles (SAM) during Air Defense Operations. The TAOM maybe transported by most commercial or Military Air, Land, or Sea vehicles, or it may be towed using a specially designed mobilizer.
The TAOM may be employed singly, or in multi-TAOM configurations. It accomplishes the mission by performing the following functions:
- Detection, identification, and classification of all aircraft and missiles within the area of responsibility.
- Track management of each aircraft, missile, and ship.
- Data transmission, reception, and forwarding with other agencies
- Evaluation of the threat potential of enemy aircraft and missiles, and the selection and assignment of weapons to engage hostile threats
- Engagement control of friendly interceptor aircraft and surface-to-air missilesagainst enemy threats
- Control of airspace and air traffic within the area of responsibility
In this joint development program, the US Marine Corps procured a total of 42 TAOM units. The US Air Force purchased 95 shelterized MCEs, plus additional unshelterized systems for use at operator and maintenance training organizations and at the USAF software support center. All deliveries were completed by the summer of 1995.
The present system design permits the interconnection of up to five MCEs through the use of fiber optic cables, although it is envisaged that four will be used as a Control and Reporting Center (CRC) and two as a Control and Reporting Element (CRE). Up to four TAOMs will be interconnected to form a US Marine Corps Tactical Air Operations Center (TAOC). Cables in 500-meter lengths allow the dispersion of TAOMs for tactical considerations or because of terrain constraints. Interfacing radars can be located up to 2 kilometers from the TAOM when connected by fiber optic cables. Radar/TAOM separation of up to 50 kilometers can be achieved using equipment installed in the TAOM narrowband secure radio link.
The US Air Force is presently on contract for production and installation of the Pre-Planned Product Improvement (P3I) upgrade kit for MCEs. This P3I kit provides the following:
- SATCOM interface capability
- JTIDS integration and TADIL-J capability
- Replacement of the mass memory unit with a mass memory controller
- VHF radio upgrades
- Addition of a SINCGARS radio
- Replacement of the operator console unit's firmware with UNIX-based DII COE Ada code
Upon completion of the C3I kit installation, these MCEs will become the AN/TYQ-23 Version 3 (V3).
The US Marine Corps has also undertaken a TAOM upgrade program that includes the following:
- New-open-architecture, COTS-based workstations
- New laser printer
- Replacement of the voice control access unit hardware with a windowed software version
- Addition of an electro-optic local area network
- Implementation of the TADIL-J J3.6 message set (Link 16)
- Replacement of the mass memory unit
- Replacement of the operator console unit'' firmware with UNIX-based DII COE Ada code.
Upon completion of this modification, these TAOMs will become the AN/TYQ-23 Version 4 (V4).
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