U.S. Marine Corps forces operating in Afghanistan rely on two related tactical communications systems to maintain connectivity with rear echelon forces. These two pieces of equipment are a man-portable switching module designed to manage voice, data and video transmissions, and a vehicle-mounted system for on-the-move communications. The equipment is now undergoing upgrades to support Marine forces more efficiently in the field.
Marine Corps Technologies
The U.S. Marine Corps is on the lookout for off-the-shelf technologies to support its warfighters’ operational needs as they deploy around the world. Because the service is called on to perform both combat and humanitarian missions—often simultaneously in the same region—readily available equipment capable of being applied to a variety of situations is on many commanders’ checklists. Some commercial gear that currently is being used by the Marines and the other U.S. military services includes portable geolocation systems, handheld translators and tents equipped with photovoltaic cells.
The latest version of an F/A-18D aircraft simulation has arrived at the only Marine Corps forward-operating location that houses a permanent squadron of the aircraft. Similar devices reside at stateside bases, but this newest version has enhancements that especially benefit users operating in restricted spaces. In addition to providing better training to Marines immediately, the simulator comes with a support contract that will keep it current with aircraft upgrades. The support process directly involves users so that alterations made to the device actually benefit aircrews in the way they need.
The U.S. Marine Corps is looking for more than a few good men and women as it increases the size of its command, control, communications and computers force. The Corps is adding a large number of civilians to the mix of uniformed Marines along with contractors to address burgeoning needs in warfighter connectivity and networking.
The U.S. Marine Corps is redefining the phrase “quick turnaround time.” Whenever possible and appropriate, warfighter requirements identified in the streets of Iraq and the mountains of Afghanistan are being fulfilled expeditiously—sometimes in as little as three months. Although other solutions may take a bit longer to get into the hands of Marines in current operations, the tempo of fielding much-needed capabilities rivals the speed of military missions in operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom.
Warfighters soon will have tactics, techniques and procedures for planning and implementing lateral communications links among the military services to pass critical Internet protocol data between tactical units. These links will allow tactical units to share information quickly, while it is still useful. Likewise, warfighters operating away from their units also will be able to connect to their home networks through another service’s network, allowing them to perform their duties more effectively.
The U.S. Marine Corps is going green, but not through any recycling program or base initiative. Rather, the military service is testing the applicability of harnessing the power of the sun and wind to operate combat communications and other systems. The initiative not only eliminates the need for traditional fossil fuels and the logistics necessary to supply them, but also reduces heat and noise signatures so troops can minimize detection.
The U.S. Marine Corps is issuing a new tactical communications system to deployed and expeditionary forces. This equipment provides forward positions such as operating bases, checkpoints and command posts with reliable, high-bandwidth connectivity to receive and send video, voice and data transmissions. This new tool is being used to link widely dispersed units across Iraq.
The U.S. Marine Corps is combining five radars into one and planning to attach the result to the back of a tactical vehicle to haul it around. By using state-of-the-art, active electronically scanned array radar technology, Marines will have a highly mobile, multipurpose tool that will help commanders track threats in the air and on the ground. The device will address multiple asymmetric threats targeted at troops and offer them the capabilities they need to be effective in battle in the 21st century.
The U.S. Marine Corps is laying the foundation for its future command and control needs. The service branch is implementing common, modular and scalable hardware and software solutions at all levels of leadership so commanders have the resources they require to direct their troops. New combat operations centers that offer all the tools Marines need to coordinate in the battlespace have been ordered for the major subordinate command level, extending commonality of operations across all echelons. Both the new centers and their older counterparts will serve as a prototype for open-source software development within the Marine Corps.
The U.S. Marine Corps soon may have an additional set of airborne eyes available to help its warfighters on the ground. A technology development program is using a new type of robot aircraft to fill an operational gap between tactical- and headquarters-level forces. The platform will be used to assess a variety of sensors under operational conditions to find the right mix of systems to support troops in the field.
The U.S. Marine Corps is melding communications and networking systems from other military services with commercial technologies to meet transformational and warfighting information requirements. The Corps is plucking some technologies á la carte from large programs under way among the three other U.S. Defense Department services. And, it is collaborating with those services on the development of their future systems.
The U.S. Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory undertakes a busy agenda for the next two years and beyond after releasing its 2006 Experimentation Campaign Plan. The 41 initiatives in the plan fall into seven categories: command and control, maneuver, logistics, fires, intelligence, force protection and mine countermeasures.
U.S. Marine Corps units soon may be equipped with manportable electro-optic sensors that will help augment security during operations. The devices form part of a prototype suite of automated reconnaissance systems that will permit warfighters to control more territory and to have better situational awareness.
Predicting a volatile enemy's next move is still the bailiwick of soothsayers, but technology may help future commanders choose an appropriate counteraction. Using the findings of a research project that delves into data farming, the U.S. Marine Corps and industry are introducing tools that help warfighters better understand the virtually infinite possibilities in the battlespace. The capability could assist in finding ways not only to defeat a martyrdom-based adversary but also to prevent this enemy from growing its ranks.
An array of advanced troubleshooting and analysis tools is keeping globally deployed U.S. Marine Corps command and control systems up and running. Providing these applications is an organization dedicated to maintaining equipment and networks through activities such as offering help desk services, qualifying new equipment and software to meet military standards, and integrating systems into new operational architectures.
The U.S. Marine Corps is assessing a new communications system that will enable deployed forces to establish data network connectivity between land and sea forces in support of joint amphibious operations. A combination of commercial off-the-shelf and Marine legacy equipment would provide basic tactical communications designed to meet the requirements of international operations. Currently undergoing a series of tests, the technology could be ready for full-scale implementation as early as fall 2001.
The U.S. Marine Corps is moving toward a network-centric warfighting capability that will allow more troops to be placed in the field with a smaller logistics footprint. New communications technologies are aimed at enabling the service to conduct and participate in joint operations with other services and coalition partners with unprecedented levels of coordination and speed.
Tactical network software may enable deployed U.S. Marines to share data about numerous targets without the bandwidth constraints or large space requirements of other systems. As the principles of network-centric warfare continue to drive the development of military command and control doctrine, this central component network could provide answers to the challenges of system extensibility and interoperability.
The U.S. Marine Corps is developing battlefield management software and advanced communications tools that will help future commanders make critical decisions by filtering incoming information and suggesting courses of action. This incoming data and the corresponding orders will be broadcast through lightweight satellite communications devices and will reach all echelons from brigade to squad level.