Military aerospace support provider Marshall has secured a contract to design, build, and demonstrate a containerised system to simplify logistics and accelerate deployment of aircraft and personnel for the United States Air Force (USAF), the company announced on 7 May 2024.

The Deployable Operations and Maintenance System (DOMS) will enable flexible repositioning and enhance access to common support equipment for aircraft, while also supporting air crews conducting rapid sorties, Marshall stated.

In line with the USAF’s Agile Combat Employment (ACE) doctrine, which advocates operating across a network of remote dispersed locations, Marshall will design its containerised DOMS mission modules to be airlifted to non-permanent “contingency locations” such as small airfields at the edge of a battle area, where they can be rapidly unloaded, moved and deployed.

DOMS is primarily intended to be loaded onto and from the Lockheed Martin C-130 tactical airlifter, a platform that Marshall has considerable experience on, having provided maintenance, repair, and overhaul services on US and UK fleets for a number of years.

The contract leading to the DOMS project was finalised between Marshall Canada and the US Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) in April 2024, following a competitive procurement process that began with a white paper submission in April 2023 and progressed to a showcase stage in June 2023 coordinated through AFWERX, the innovation arm of the Department of the Air Force.

Design will be led by Marshall’s global engineering team, with up to two proof-of-concept modules to be built and tested at Marshall Canada’s new production facility in Moncton, New Brunswick.

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Following delivery of the modules and supporting equipment to USAF, Marshall will conduct on-site demonstrations while developing proposals for further production, the company stated.

ACE: new doctrine for contested environments

The USAF’s ACE doctrine is being developed to provide a way in which its forces can operate in contested environments, as likely adversaries could disrupt flight operations at known military airbases and sites of fixed infrastructure.

In order to combat this threat, the USAF has envisioned a shift in operations from centralised physical sites to a network of small, dispersed locations or cluster bases.

“Fundamentally changing the way we generate airpower will complicate adversary planning,” said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen CQ Brown in 2022, outlining the benefits of the ACE concept.

In order to support ACE air operations at dispersed locations, containerised and air transportable logistics solutions will need to be developed in order to sustain aircraft on the ground, with Marshall’s contract with the USAF a key step forward in realising this key capability.

The USAF is also looking at new power generation methods for ACE operations, such as through the use of roll-out solar panel fabrics.