The Marine Corps is looking for a mounted organic precision fires capability for its Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalions, with officials looking to non-traditional partners to inform requirements ahead a prototype contract award in the first quarter of fiscal year 2020.
The Organic Precision Fire-Mounted Capability (OPF-M) is expected to provide Marines’ extended fire support with ranges from 7 to 100 kilometers, and officials will hold a March industry day to gather insight on potential advanced sensors and automated targeting opportunities.
“We really want to push the envelope and build tomorrow’s systems today. We’re looking to see what’s available, what’s in the realm of possibility, not the current status quo. And a lot of that development is done by smaller non-traditional vendors,” Jeff Nebel, team lead for Marine Corps Systems Command’s program manager-fires, told reporters Monday.
Officials released a request for information for OPF-M on Jan. 31 and Nebel said the Marine Corps is looking to award a prototype contract toward the end of this year and then demonstrate a base capability to inform final requirements.
OPF-M is then likely to move into low-rate initial production and initial fielding in the first quarter of fiscal year 2022.
“What we’re looking at is an organic fires capability, so this capability would be resident within the LAR battalion. Currently, the 81mm mortar is in the LAR company. We would augment this capability at the company-level probably co-located with a mortar,” Nebel said. “We want to take advantage of the sensors that currently exist within the battalion, but we’re also interested in exploring other sensors that could be used to support this capability.
The new weapons system will be mounted on Light Armored Vehicles, and include subsystems for aerial reconnaissance, a surveillance and target acquisition platform, a vehicle-launched loitering aerial munition, and a digital command and control system.
“Our strategy is to do an incremental acquisition approach. Our plan is to field an initial capability that provides the Marine Corps with the warfighting capabilities it needs, and then incrementally develop the system to provide upgrades or enhancements,” Nebel said.
Potential upgrades to the base capability could include advanced swarming and loitering times and extending range beyond 100km, according to Nebel, who added the Marine Corps could go after both kinetic and electronic warfare capabilities for OPF-M.
“We are interested in pursuing all available options. As requirements develop, we would anticipate looking to meet what any our munitions should be able to do in the future,” Nebel told reporters.
Current requirements for OPF-M include ease of command and control, including control from a tablet system, and the ability to loiter mid-flight during target recognition and perform positive identification.
The Marine Corps’ industry day for OPF-M will take place March 13-14 at the University of Mary Washington (UMW) Dahlgren campus in King George, Virginia.
Lt. Col. Bradley Sams, program manager for fires, said the Marine Corps is looking for industry to provide feedback on everything from OPF-M’s potential size and technical capacity, to insight on whether contracts will be awarded as Other Transaction Authority agreements or more traditional deals.
“We’re asking for industry to come out and give us some ideas on what they currently have or what they have in development. We’re looking at what’s in the realm of the possible to try get after some prototype capabilities in the next year to year and a half, so we can nail down those requirements,” Sams told reporters.