Photo Information

A U.S. Marine operates the legacy Circuit Card Assembly Test Station, aboard Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, Oct. 30.

Photo by U.S. Marine Corps

Corps to field electronic tech designed to fix circuit cards

23 Dec 2020 | Matt Gonzales Marine Corps Systems Command

Marine Corps Systems Command intends to field an upgraded maintenance system capable of repairing circuit cards within electronic, communication and many other systems employed by Marines.

The Circuit Card Assembly Test Station is a shelter-mountable unit that Marines can use to diagnose and repair circuit cards for any system comprising one. A circuit card, or electronic module, refers to replaceable units that comprise a given system.

“CCATS enables electronic module repairs to be accomplished at the lowest practical maintenance level,” said Jorge Ruiz, the project officer for CCATS. “In laymen terms, CCATS allows Marines to fix their own gear.”

The system enables various Marines, primarily communication and electronics maintainers, to analyze and compare faulted circuits with tools, and test equipment to repair circuit card runs, substrates and connectors. It also allows them to remove and replace faulted components such as transistors and capacitors.

Marines can use the system to troubleshoot and repair everything from radios and power systems to weapon and optical systems. They can use CCATS to fix or restore circuit cards within electronic control units, which are internal computers that control vehicles.

The system upgrade will replace the legacy CCATS, an analog system that began fielding in 2009. Marines at III Marine Expeditionary Force will be among the first to receive this equipment in the second quarter of fiscal year 2021. I MEF and II MEF are expected to receive the system in fiscal year 2022.

Partnership with Navy

The Marine Corps joined the Navy along with other sponsors on a contract to provide the funding to procure, test and improve the early prototype models of the CCATS.

Michael Bruzan, technical project manager and primary Marine Corps liaison for Naval Undersea Warfare Center Detachment Field Engineering Office in Norfolk, Virginia, said this partnership can ultimately benefit all parties involved.

“It is great for services to work together,” said Bruzan. “By combining resources and lessons learned from the individual services and warfare communities, we can provide a better and more uniform product and service at a reduced cost as opposed to each service doing it alone.”

In April 2018, MCSC teamed up with the Navy to host a user evaluation with a group of Sailors and Marines. Marines who participated in the assessment said the CCATS was smaller, more mobile and more user-friendly than the legacy analog system.

“It is great for services to work together. By combining resources and lessons learned from the individual services and warfare communities, we can provide a better and more uniform product..." Michael Bruzan, technical project manager

“Marines like the fact that it is easier to use and how it is more time-efficient,” said Ruiz. “It reduces the amount of time they sit in front of a machine and try to repair a circuit card.”

Training and Education

Not every Marine can use CCATS. They must first be trained to employ the system.

Marines must first attend a four-week course on the basics of electronics, located in Twentynine Palms, California. Next, upon graduating from a specialty school and completing on-the-job training, they can attend Naval Undersea Warfare Center to learn to operate CCATS, which includes developing repair routines and producing new circuit cards.

Ruiz said Marines who graduate from the NUWC course receive a secondary military occupational specialty of microminiature repairer.

“This is a great step toward getting the mastery of electronic repair technician,” said Ruiz. “Marines are filling the classes quickly and the PMOs are excited about that.”

As technology advances, more systems used by the Marine Corps include circuit cards. CCATS enables Marines to troubleshoot and repair equipment rather than return the components to the manufacturer for repair. As a result, the Marine Corps saves time and money.

“Having an organic capability significantly reduces the reliance on the original equipment manufacturer for repairs,” said Terry Ritchie, MCSC’s product manager of Automatic Test Systems. “This reduces the turnaround time, increases operational readiness and ultimately equates to cost savings across the board.”

CCATS also helps the Marine Corps support the vision of 38th Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. David Berger in his Commandant’s Planning Guidance. The system align capability sets with the Expeditionary Advanced Based Operations as the Marine Corps executes force realignment strategies.

“The upgraded CCATS will be a great return on investment for the Marine Corps,” said Ruiz. “Based on Marine feedback, we’re really seeing the fruits of our labor.”