Page 468

Page 468 (1968: The Defining Year)

Communications Central (TDCC) and another 16 huts for the TAOC proper.
Part of the recently developed Marine Tactical Data System (MTDS), compatible
with the Navy's Airborne Tactical Data System (ATDS), the new TAOC permitted
the Marine controllers to monitor about 250 airborne aircraft at one
time, both friendly and hostile, and to handle about 25 air intercepts
at the same instance.22*

The new Marine system had a larger capacity and more sophisticated
air control capability than the Air Force Panama station. More importantly,
the Marines could electronically exchange air defense and air control
data instantly with the ships of the Seventh Fleet operating both in
the Gulf of Tonkin and the South China Sea. For the time being, however,
the only way that the Air Force CRC could communicate with either the
fleet or the Marine TAOC was by voice relay.** Brigadier General Earl
E. "Double E" Anderson, a Marine aviator who had previously worked on
the DCS (Air) staff at HQMC and was now the III MAF chief of staff,
wrote to General McCutcheon in Washington that the "Air Force colonel
who now commands Panama finally swallowed his pride." According to Anderson,
the Air Force commander had "asked MACS-4 if they would permit him to
send Air Force controllers to work with the TAOC." The Marines agreed
and "they have Air Force controllers working on the MTDS equipment and
passing plots by phone to the Panama site."23***

The several DASCs made up the second component of the 1st Wing's Tactical Air Direction Center. Personnel from the two Marine air support squadrons, MASS-2 and -3, manned the five DASCs, usually collocated with the Marine fire support coordinating center (FSCC) of the supported unit. MASS-3 ran the DASC with the 1st Marine Division at Da Nang, a mini-DASC with the 26th Marines at Khe Sanh established there in mid-January, and the one at Chu Lai. The two remaining DASCs, manned by MASS-2, were both in early January with the 3d Marine Division, one at the division's main CP at Phu Bai and the other at the division's forward headquarters at Dong Ha. When the 3d Division turned its CP at Phu Bai over to the 1st Marine Division Task Force X-Ray in mid-month, the Phu Bai DASC remained behind and provided the same service to the new command.24

Supplementing the DASCs, the two MASS squadrons also maintained five air support radar

* Lieutenant Colonel William A. Cohn observed that "when the MTDS replaced
the manual system, approximately 1700 a month missions were being handled
... in a few months the MTDS system was handling over 17,000 missions
a month." He declared this was a "quantum leap" and contrasted it with
the Air Force system at Panama, "where all aircraft were put on punch
cards and then introduced into the system, while MTDS acquired aircraft
automatically as soon as they were airborne." LtCol William A. Cohn,
Comments on draft, dtd 13Dec94 (Vietnam Comment File), hereafter Cohn

** Colonel David S. Twining, a commander of MACS-4 in 1968, recalled that "the TAOC/TDCC had the capability to similarly exchange digital target information with HAWK Missile Battalions and also with adjacent Air Force control agencies. As early as 1965 the JCS had agreed on joint technical standards for such information exchange. The Marine Corps and Air Force implemented these standards in both the MTDS and Air Force 407-L development programs but the Air Force equipment at the site 'Panama' CRC was the older Back-Up Intercept Computer (BUIC-2) which had only the Air Force unique SAGE/BUIC data link. Using the Marine Corps TDCC equipped with mission-specific modems a special data link translator was devised which eventually succeeded in automating the link between the two centers. Col David S. Twining, Commenrs on draft, dtd 15Nov94 (Vietnam Comment File), hereafter Twining Comments.

*** General Anderson had more than a passing interest in the MTDS
equipment. He recalled that as a colonel in 1963, he was told that "the
MTDS program (which was the largest R&D Program the Marine Corps had
ever undertaken) was in serious trouble and despite the Commandant's
reluctance the Marine Corps decided to take the Program Manager route.
Despite my protestations, I was assigned that billet and while physically
located within DC/S Air, I reported directly to the Chief of Staff."
Gen Earl E. Anderson, Comments on draft, dtd 18Dec94 (Vietnam Comment
File). Lieutenant General Richard E. Carey, who after his stint as a
squadron commander served on the 1st MAW staff, recalled that he "had
numerous conversations with Panama in which they sang the praises of
our MTDS capability." Carey Comments. Both Lieutenant Colonel Cohn who
commanded MACS-4 until April 1968, and his successor, Colonel Twining,
commented on their relations with the Air Force commander of the "Panama"
station. Lieutenant Colonel Cohn wrote, "the Air Force colonel commanding
Panama broughr his VIP visitors to see 'his' Marine air control system
in action. At this time MTDS was handling Army, Navy, and Air Force
aircraft to such locations as Udorn, Piraz, and many other bases. This
in addition to the normal day-to-day operations with 1st Wing AC." Cohn
Comments. Colonel Twining observed that he had excellent working relations
with local Air Force commanders at Da Nang, but contrasted this with
the "political agenda" of the Seventh Air Force headquarters in Saigon.
He cited as an example where he had worked out a particular working
agreement with the Panama commander in which MACS-4 would control returning
certain Air Force flights in bad weather when the Air Force equipment
"was not up to the task." According to Twining the new procedures worked
well until the Panama Commander "made the mistake of relaring this to
Saigon, whereupon he was summarily relieved and was not even allowed
to return for his personal gear. His successor made one call on me upon
his arrival and told me that he was under orders to break off all cooperative
air control procedures and that he was furthermore prohibited from further
meetings with his Marine counterparts." Twining Comments.

Page 468 (1968: The Defining Year)