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U.S. Marines with 12th Marine Regiment, 3d Marine Division, adjust a Ground/Air Task Oriented Radar system at Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, Okinawa, Japan, Aug. 10, 2020. The G/ATOR provides an air defense and surveillance capability and is used to locate enemy weapon systems. Having these capabilities further enhances Marines’ missions and increases lethality. G/ATOR is one of the Corps’ key capabilities supporting Force Design 2030. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Savannah Mesimer)

Photo by Cpl. Savannah Mesimer

Inside Acquisition: How the G/ATOR modernizes the Corps for the future fight

14 Jul 2021 | Ashley Calingo, Office of Public Affairs and Communication Marine Corps Systems Command

Force Design 2030 details Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. David Berger’s vision for maintaining the relevance of the Corps in the new age of great power competition.

Developed to enable the Marine Corps to adapt and outmaneuver its adversaries, Force Design 2030 outlines the commandant’s goals and blueprint for ensuring America maintains its competitive edge.

Critical to this effort is one of the Marine Corps’ latest and most advanced systems yet—the Ground/Air Task-Oriented Radar, managed by Program Executive Officer Land Systems’ G/ATOR program office.

Initially fielded in 2018, the G/ATOR is an expeditionary, multifunctional radar system providing Marines with increased accuracy, tactical mobility and reliability over legacy systems. Replacing five of the Marine Corps’ legacy systems, the G/ATOR can support various missions, depending on the “block” of software used on a single hardware platform.

G/ATOR Block 1 provides air defense and surveillance capabilities, while Block 2 supports artillery operations. The system represents a key Marine Corps sensor capability.

“G/ATOR is designed to be flexible enough that the system can be used in different modes in support of different missions,” said Chief Warrant Officer 3 Jack Linke, capabilities integration officer for G/ATOR Block 1 at Marine Corps Combat Development Directorate, Combat Development and Integration. “In the past, artillery—the [G/ATOR Block 2] Marines—had a separate radar. We—the [G/ATOR Block 1] Marines—had our own separate radar for air-breathing and missile targets. G/ATOR lets us accomplish both those missions with far better accuracy than either of us had before with our legacy systems.”

The G/ATOR enhances the Marine Corps’ ability to perform counter fires and air defense, such as defending against cruise missiles and unmanned aerial systems. It provides real-time radar measurement data to Marine Corps communication and sensor networks, such as Common Aviation Command and Control System, Composite Tracking Network and Advanced Field Artillery Tactical Data System.

The G/ATOR’s interoperability with Naval systems and transportability make it a critical component to achieving Force Design, said Linke.

“G/ATOR increases our ability to work together with the Navy and other joint forces in a way that we have not been able to in the past,” said Linke. “G/ATOR makes many of the things the commandant talks about in Force Design possible, especially with regard to our interoperability with the Navy.”

G/ATOR makes many of the things the commandant talks about in Force Design possible, especially with regard to our interoperability with the Navy.CWO3 Jack Linke, MCCDC, CD&I

Last year’s Advantage at Sea joint strategy between the Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard notes significant technological developments and aggressive military modernization efforts by America’s rivals have challenged the joint forces’ unfettered access to the seas in conflict.

Maritime power is an essential element of Force Design and the National Defense Strategy. The G/ATOR enhances sea-based air defense sensors and command and control capabilities. This provides the naval and joint forces with an expeditionary radar and cruise missile detection capability that extends battlespace coverage.

The G/ATOR’s expeditionary design enables Marines to transport it using a smaller footprint, and set it up more quickly and efficiently than its predecessors. These features are critical during the Marine Corps’ shift to expeditionary advanced base operations, said Linke.

“When it comes to EABO, being able to take a radar off a ship, set up quickly and go is critical for those sorts of operations,” said Linke.

The G/ATOR’s modernized capabilities are also an asset to Marines responsible for returning fire if engaged by the enemy.

“It’s an expeditionary radar system that tracks enemy [indirect fire] at much greater range than our legacy system,” said Chief Warrant Officer 5 Wayne Cooper, capabilities integration officer for G/ATOR Block 2 at MCCDD, CD&I. “The G/ATOR more than doubles the range capability from our previous system.”

The radar’s increased range also supports the Marine Corps’ ability to fight inside an adversary’s sensors and weapons engagement zone, facilitating sea denial in support of fleet operations. During missions, the G/ATOR can provide support to multiple areas, including separate islands, without having to “hop around” to different locations, said Cooper.

Ultimately, alongside the Corps’ allies and partners, the G/ATOR will help the Marine Corps control key, maritime areas to project power and compromise adversaries’ objectives.

“The G/ATOR is a key enabler because it allows us to have and keep situational awareness, even in a changing threat environment,” said Cooper. “It’s the system of choice, and the system we’re going to use in major combat operations, in stability and security operations, in transition to counterinsurgency operations. So, when we talk about it being a key enabler for the Marine Corps in the joint force, it’s utilized in all of those spectrums.”

Because the hardware of G/ATOR remains the same across different functions, the potential capabilities of the system are endless.

“I think the biggest benefit of this system is that it has the potential to be upgraded in the future,” said Joe Blackstone, G/ATOR product manager at PEO Land Systems. “Being able to implement software changes and enhancements on the same hardware really provides that additional flexibility.”

Blackstone said the program office is gearing up to deliver its last low rate initial production and first full rate production system later this summer. The program office is also focusing on improving sustainment methods and further enhancing the radar’s capabilities.

“The program office has been investigating hardware and software improvements to give Marines even better situational awareness,” said Blackstone. “We’re testing the bounds of the system, the software limits, and seeing how we can expand on that.”

The G/ATOR exemplifies the Marine Corps intent to rapidly pursue new capabilities and concepts to ensure it remains a capable naval expeditionary force in 2030 and beyond. Innovative radar systems such as G/ATOR are designed to help the Marine Corps continue to serve as the nation’s premier naval expeditionary force-in-readiness for years to come.

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