Some equipment in the Marine Corps is so valued that it has been around for generations and still operating at top capacity. One such piece of gear is the AN/TRC-170.
The Tropospheric Scatter Microwave Radio Terminal, or the AN/TRC-170, is a communication link that transports data from one position to another. Marines during the Weapons and Tactics Instructor Course 2-17 near Yuma, Ariz., are using this reliable piece of equipment to communicate back to Marine Corps Air Station Yuma from their field position.
April 26, 2017 - The Tropospheric Scatter Microwave Radio Terminal, or the AN/TRC-170, is being operated during the Weapons and Tactics Instructor Course 2-17 near Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Arizona. The AN/TRC-170 is used to transfer data, internet, phone, and emails within 100 nautical miles to a point target on the receiving end. This version of the AN/TRC-170 has been commissioned in the Marines Corps since the 1980’s. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Cody Lemons)
“The purpose of the AN/TRC-170 is to be a link between two major sites,” said Sgt. Matthew George, an AN/TRC-170 operator assigned to Marine Wing Communications Squadron 28, Marine Air Control Group 28, 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing.
“It is a point-to-point contact,” said George. “It can reach up to 100 nautical miles and you can pass data, internet, phone, and email. All of that is coming through the AN/TRC-170.”
Although it looks like an intricate piece of equipment, it only takes about 45 minutes to set up with four Marines, and about half that time to take down, said George.
The AN/TRC-170 may be the most reliable piece of communications gear in the Marine Corps.
“It’s a solid piece of gear” said George. “Ever since we’ve had these set up, it’s been a solid signal. Once it is set up and is going, it takes a lot for it to break. It is extremely reliable.”
“It has been up since March 17th and we have had no down time,” said Cpl. Austin Hardin, a TRC-170 operator assigned to MWCS-28, MACG-28, 2nd MAW. “We are at around 960 hours of non-stop communication. It’s super reliable.”
Not only has this version of the AN/TRC-170 been reliable, but it has also been around since the 1980’s, with earlier versions coming before that.
“All the old gear that was used way back when is actually still in there,” said George. “So if we had to, we could go back and use the old gear. We have the option to actually switch back and forth to fall back on, but we have yet to have to do that.”
To demonstrate how long these machines have been commissioned in the Marine Corps, Hardin says his friend met and ex-Marine at a Veterans Affairs who used to actually work with an earlier version of the AN/TRC-170 during his time in the Vietnam War.
“Some people hate on the AN/TRC-170,” said Hardin. “The VSAT guys have satellite time that costs thousands and thousands of dollars but we still have these in commission and they are super cheap compared to what they have. They have been around for so long and they are still kicking, they are strong. They are like the workhorse of communications.”
Though there is more advanced technology out there nowadays, the AN/TRC-170 still pulls in a crowd.
“Everyone wants to see them when they come out here,” said Hardin. “Nobody wants to see the VSAT or the radios; they want to come see the AN/TRC-170.”
There’s an old saying of, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” That saying stands true for the AN/TRC-170.
By U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Cody Lemons
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