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Marines Tap Four Firms to Help with New Lightweight Targeting System

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A Marine with 1st Air Naval Gunfire Liaison Company looks through a Portable Lightweight Designator Range finder during a combined arms exercise with the Japanese Ground Self Defense Force, Feb. 12. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps)
A Marine with 1st Air Naval Gunfire Liaison Company looks through a Portable Lightweight Designator Range finder during a combined arms exercise with the Japanese Ground Self Defense Force, Feb. 12. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps)

The Marine Corps has chosen four defense firms to help develop a new handheld targeting system that would assist Marines in firing more effectively at the enemy.

The service awarded four Other Transaction Authorities, or OTAs, to BAE Systems, Elbit Systems of America, Fraser Optics and Northrop Grumman Systems Corporation to help the Corps assess the capability of industry to produce the Next Generation Handheld Targeting System, or NGHTS, according to a press release from Marine Corps Systems Command.

NGHTS is a lightweight, man-portable system that would help Marines quickly acquire targets and generate target location data from the battlefield, the release stated.

OTAs are a procurement tool approved by Congress in 2016 to pay for prototypes and to hire non-traditional defense companies to spur innovation, the release states.

The goal of the NGHTS effort is to replace four systems now in use -- the Portable Lightweight Designator Rangefinder, Joint Terminal Attack Controller, Laser Target Designator and Thermal Laser Spot Imager.

"The NGHTS will be an important advancement because it is planned to reduce the current weight of the laser designation and laser spot imaging capability by 60 percent, which will increase the mobility and lethality of our fire support-focused Marines," Maj. Nathan Morales, targeting systems project officer for Program Manager Fires, said in the release.

During the first phase, the companies will explore potential system capabilities and provide Marine Corps Systems Command with an in-depth study of the best solution "at the best price," said Megan Full, contract specialist supporting PM Fires at MCSC.

"We will collect the findings by the second quarter of fiscal year 2019 and choose one or more vendors to move onto phase two where they will develop and demonstrate prototypes," she said.

The four companies will focus on the following criteria:

-- The system's overall ergonomics for supporting forward deployed, foot mobile users.

-- Target recognition, location and designation ranges during day and night operations.

-- The ability to integrate the system with the Target Handoff System Version 2 to view and manipulate target information.

-- Technological maturity, manufacturability and value engineering.

-- Sustainability at the operational user level.

"For the last four years, we have worked diligently to explore an option that condenses the legacy versions into one lightweight system with a reliable power supply that is rugged enough to throw onto a Marine's pack," said Jeff Nebel, Fire Support Coordination Team lead for PM Fires, in the release.

"The NGHTS will combine all of the legacy capabilities into one system that is compatible with both current and future fire support systems and will support the Marine Corps for the next 15 to 20 years."

-- Matthew Cox can be reached at matthew.cox@military.com.

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