The US Marine Corps (USMC) anticipates fielding the Target Handoff System 2 in fiscal year 2018, Jane's has learnt.
The system is designed to enable forward observers and joint terminal attack controllers (JTACs) to digitally call for fires support with a lower risk of error. The service recently commenced an initial operating capability (IOC).
The system uses a standard map file format from the National Geospatial Agency (NGA). The maps are downloaded onto a SD card and loaded into a custom-built Samsung tablet. The tablet does not use Wi-Fi and its camera is disabled.
A JTAC would pull up the map on the device, select a target, and then make a call for fire, a USMC spokesperson told Jane's , at the annual Navy League Sea, Air, Space symposium at National Harbor, Maryland, on 4 April.
While the JTAC must still provide certain information to pilots and artillery, such as target location, what direction to attack from, and what type of weapon to deploy, using a digital system to transmit the data removes the potential for any confusion between a JTAC and a pilot that may occur when verbally delivering the information.
"Now I am simply finding the target on a map, plotting a target with my finger, it gives me the six-digit grid and elevation for that target, and I send it to the aircraft's system. The pilot does not have to do anything," the spokesperson added. "We are cutting down on error and on the time required [to call for air support]."
The Target Handoff System 2 works with Marine Corps aircraft using the Variable Message Format (VMF) and ties into any surface-to-surface fires using the Advance Field Artillery Tactical Data System (AFATDS).
Currently, all USMC F-18s and US Navy F/A-18E/F Super Hornets are using VMF, as well as the USMC's F-35B and the Fairchild Republic A-10 Thunderbolt II Warthog.
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