Members of Marine Corps Systems Command (MARCORSYSCOM) conducted validation testing Jan. 29 of the sighting system on the Marine Corps’
newest anti-armor technology at the Naval Support Facility (NSF) Dahlgren airfield. The M41A4 Saber System has replaced the M220A3 TOW Weapon System in Marine Corps infantry and tank battalions.
As a premiere military research, development, testing and evaluation (RDT&E) organization, MARCORSYSCOM serves the ever-evolving needs of Marine warfighters. Its engineers came to Dahlgren to test the Saber System’s newest sighting features, for which the airfield at Dahlgren provided an “ideal spot.” Making use of the flat, specific distances at the airfield, MARCORSYSCOM engineers worked to ensure that Saber’s mil dot reticle sight remains true when operators make sight adjustments. It is vitally important that warfighters are able to quickly adjust the sight’s zoom, magnification, day and night features with no change in the missile’s point-of-impact.
The concept is not too far removed from the basic principles of marksmanship every Marine learns on the rifle range, though applying those principles to a guided missile system is a considerably more complicated proposition. The goal, however, is exactly the same: one shot, one kill.
To accomplish that goal, MARCORSYSCOM engineers depend on feedback from the operating forces and many of the RDT&E professionals who serve the command are themselves former Marines and combat veterans.
“Our primary mission is to support the warfighter through the research, development, acquisition, fielding and disposal of equipment that allows Marines to do their job as a premier expeditionary force,” said Kevin Deal, systems engineer for MARCORSYSCOM. “Feedback, from both the operating forces and [the] retired Marines who are present within our development teams at Marine Corps Systems Command, provides real-world insight into whether or not equipment will meet the demands of the Marine warfighter.”
There is no question that anti-armor guided missiles will be a fixture of combat for the foreseeable future. The TOW Weapon System, predecessor of the Saber System, first saw use in the Vietnam War and updated versions were used extensively during the Gulf War. Soldiers famously employed TOW missiles during the Iraq War to kill the sons of Saddam Hussein, Uday and Qusay, who barricaded themselves in a building during a firefight with American forces.
Ensuring that the Saber System functions properly for Marines in those kinds of high-stress combat zones motivates Deal and his team. “The demonstration of service to others that Marines display in their dedication to our nation is what motivates me to support the Marine warfighter,” he said. “I too wish to demonstrate that same dedication to country and I find the most proper way to accomplish this is through the use of my engineering talents in support of our Marines.”
The attitude is a familiar one among Dahlgren’s own professionals, who pride themselves on not only serving Navy warfighters, but also the wider military RDT&E community. The installation’s largest command, the Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division (NWSC DD), collaborates with MARCORSYSCOM on a regular basis.
Deal explained why sharing resources is so vital to military RDT&E. “It is important for military scientists and engineers to share knowledge and resources because by so doing they are able to accomplish more with less through the pooling of talents that would not otherwise be available individually,” he said. “No single person has all the answers to any one problem. It is necessary to collaborate with and be open to teaming with others so that we might gain from one another’s understandings. This is especially true in the world of science and engineering where progress is built on the backs of previous scientists’ and engineers’ research and discoveries.”