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Marine Corps Technologies

Marines Research 
Modernization

April 1, 2013
By Rita Boland

Looking past the alligators close to the boat, scientists prepare for the wars of tomorrow.

Distributed operations are the future of the U.S. Marine Corps, and its premier science and technology organization is laser focused on the capabilities to make such missions a success. Enabling communications for mobile troops across long distances is a priority as battles continue in Afghanistan while the focus shifts toward more maritime environments. Success will give lower echelons better access to command and control, enhancing the fight in any theater.

Brig. Gen. Mark R. Wise, USMC, commander of the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory (MCWL) and vice chief of naval research, explains that people usually think of modernizing a force as working on resources to be ready in five to 10 years, but efforts at the laboratory reach much further ahead. “We are influencing the very leading edge,” he states. The research helps define what times to come should look like for Marines and what they will need to operate effectively. This aim at the future influences the requirements that influence modernization.

“The MCWL is very focused on distributed operations right now,” Gen. Wise explains. Units in current conflicts already operate at great distances from other units or their own command and control (C2) elements. As operations shift to the Asia-Pacific, such distance problems are likely to increase. The MCWL is working on methods to sustain—through enhanced logistics—and command and control such a force. Researchers are exploring material and nonmaterial solutions to find the correct enabling capabilities.

Marine Corps Ponders Training Changes

April 1, 2013
By Max Cacas

After a special operations deployment, handling state-of-the-art communications technology tops the list.

Back from a nearly year-long deployment to Afghanistan, the 1st Marine Special Operations Battalion already is working to apply lessons learned to training for the next deployment. As the battalion prepares for its next mission, it is reflecting on what its Marines learned about how they train, how their equipment worked and how they will prepare themselves for the future.

While they are able to use some of the best electronic communications gear developed for the military, the Marines nonetheless are trying to learn how they can improve both their initial and follow-up training to get the most out of that equipment. They also are asking important questions about whether they have enough, and the right kinds, of equipment.

Chief Warrant Officer 2 (CWO2) Jason Reed, USMC, is a spectrum operations officer, G-6, and one of the members of the Marine battalion responsible for supporting the communications needs of Marines during the deployment. CWO2 Reed says one of the first things his bosses at the Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command (MARSOC) headquarters wanted to know is what worked, what went well and, more importantly, what needed improvement based on the deployment. For CWO2 Reed, that meant one thing: training for combat service support personnel.

He explains that MARSOC recruits Marines who have already received training for more conventional duties. “They’re radio operators, they’re maintenance folks, they’re cryptologists, they’re data network operators,” CWO2 Reed outlines. Upon arrival at MARSOC, however, the Marines receive a new level of training to support Special Operations, getting what he calls “a new baseline” in training.

Modernized Marine Drone Casts a Large Shadow

April 1, 2013
By George I. Seffers

The upgraded RQ-7 could play a significant role in the Asia-Pacific region.

The U.S. Marine Corps could potentially begin fielding newly upgraded RQ-7 Shadow systems as early as next year, according to experts. The new version of the combat-proven aircraft is fully digitized, improves interoperability, can be teamed with manned aircraft and provides intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance data to a broader range of warfighters, including manned aircraft crews. The upgraded system is intended to serve as an interim capability until the Marine Corps can field a larger, more capable unmanned aircraft.

The Shadow unmanned aircraft system (UAS) has flown more than 800,000 flight hours with more than 90 percent of those during combat. Both the Marines and the Army use the system. The Army is the lead service, integrating Marine Corps requirements with its own.

Shadow is being modernized with an array of upgraded capabilities, including a Tactical Common Data Link (TCDL); a universal ground control station capable of controlling multiple systems, including Gray Eagle and Shadow; and a Joint Tactical Radio System (JTRS). It also is being given a longer wingspan to increase time on station from six hours to 10 and more capable engines. Additionally, the military seeks to weaponize the system.

The Marines already have pulled the Shadow from Afghanistan, but the modernized system could play a significant role in the future. “As we look toward the Asia-Pacific region, we need more capable solutions that will allow us to feed data to the warfighter,” says Maj. Nicholas Neimer, USMC, the Marine Corps tactical unmanned aerial system coordinator. “Everything we do as far as improvements is to deliver real-time data to the warfighter and provide knowledge at the point of action.”

Cyber, China Challenges Loom Large for U.S. Military

February 1, 2013
By Robert K. Ackerman

West 2013 Online Show Daily, Day 3

Quote of the Day: “Make no mistake: the PLAN is focused on war at sea and sinking an opposing fleet.”—Capt. Jim Fanell, USN, deputy chief of staff for intelligence and information operations, U.S. Pacific Fleet

Two separate issues, both on the rise, have become increasing concerns for U.S. military planners. The technology-oriented world of cyber and the geopolitical challenge of a growing Chinese military are dynamic issues that will be major focus points for the U.S. defense community in the foreseeable future.

Cyber security is becoming increasingly complex because of the plethora of new information technologies and capabilities entering the force. Security planners must strike a balance between effectively protecting these new information systems and imposing constraints that would wipe out most of the gains they offer.

China, the world’s rising economic power, is evolving into a military power with a reach that extends increasingly beyond its littoral waters. The U.S. strategic rebalance to the Asia-Pacific region is likely to enmesh U.S. military forces in local issues to a greater degree, and China’s steady growth in military strength will affect how international relations evolve in that vast region.

Many Issues Cloud the Future for the Military

January 31, 2013
By Robert K. Ackerman

 

 

 

Fiscal Armageddon Is No False Prophesy

January 30, 2013
By Robert K. Ackerman

West 2013 Online Show Daily, Day 1

Quote of the Day:“’Flat’ is the new ‘up’ in this defense budget environment.”— Robert O. Work, undersecretary of the Navy

The military services are facing potentially crippling constraints if sequestration takes place in March. Defense officials foresee the likelihood of draconian budget cuts being imposed that will cripple the force just as it is being counted on to assume new strategic missions. In most cases, the services will have to choose to sacrifice some capabilities so that others will remain part of the force. In worse-case scenarios, the U.S. military may be unable to meet its obligations when a crisis emerges.

These and other points were hammered home by speakers and panels on the first day of West 2013, the annual conference and exposition hosted by AFCEA and the U.S. Naval Institute in San Diego. While the event has the theme of “Pivot to the Pacific: What Are the Global Implications,” the first day’s discussions largely focused on the dire consequences of the fiscal cliff as well as potential solutions to avoid completely gutting the military force. Audiences generally were aware of the looming budget crisis, but many were surprised by the bluntness of the assessments offered by high-ranking Defense Department civilian and military leaders.

Obstacles Loom for Pacific Realignment

January 1, 2013
By Robert K. Ackerman

The shift of U.S. power to the Asia-Pacific will not be successful without an infusion of new technology and a dedicated effort to defeat a wide range of adversaries. The new strategic emphasis on the Asia-Pacific region poses a new set of challenges, mandating solutions that run the gamut from technological capabilities to cultural outreach and diplomacy.

On the military side, direct challenges range from dealing with cyberspace attacks to providing missile defense in a large-scale conflict. On the geopolitical side, centuries of conflict and confrontation among neighbors must be overcome if a region-wide security environment enabling economic growth is to be implemented.

The technological response will require moving game-changing—or even disruptive—technologies into theater faster and more effectively. Strategically, both government and the military must build more extensive coalitions among a large number of nations, some of which historically have not trusted each other.

These points were among the many discussed at TechNet Asia-Pacific 2012, held in Honolulu, Hawaii, November 13-15. Titled “Rebalancing Toward the Asia-Pacific—Challenges and Opportunities,” the conference featured a multinational roster of speakers and panelists from across government, the military, industry and academia.

One challenge that faces modern military forces anywhere in the world is cyberspace, and the threat in that realm is extending into new areas with potentially greater lethality. A new type of player has emerged among cyber malefactors, and many traditional adversaries are adopting new tactics that combine both hardware and software exploitation. These threats no longer are confined to customary targets, as even systems once thought sacrosanct are vulnerable to potentially devastating onslaughts.

NGEN Bidders Offer
 Continuity With Change

December 1, 2012
By Robert K. Ackerman

The program may be revolutionary, but its product is evolutionary.

Despite its sea-change approach to acquisition, the U.S. Navy’s Next Generation Enterprise Network program is being designed to evolve from its predecessor, the Navy Marine Corps Intranet, in bids submitted by the two teams vying for the multibillion-dollar contract. The two bidders are focusing their efforts on the transition between the two networks, which is a process that will take several years.

Two teams are competing for the ground-breaking Next Generation Enterprise Network (NGEN) program. One, led by Hewlett-Packard (HP), includes AT&T, IBM, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman. The other, led by Computer Sciences Corporation (CSC) and Harris, includes Dell, General Dynamics and Verizon. They have submitted bids based on an request for proposal (http://bit.ly/signalngen0512) issued by the Navy earlier this year. NGEN is designed to replace the Navy Marine Corps Intranet (NMCI) early next year (SIGNAL Magazine, December 2011, page 18, “NGEN Race Heats Up”).

The teams offer varying emphases on the value of their proposals. However, they both stress the importance of the transition from the NMCI to NGEN, and they state that their proposals are designed to ensure stability while easing in innovation.

Bill Toti, vice president and account executive, HP Navy and Marine Corps Accounts, offers that his team’s bid is strengthened by the fact that the team includes the progenitors of the NMCI. “We’re the only people who have ever done this,” he declares, adding that this is a consideration that the Navy will have to take into account during source selection.

Forward Deployment Key to Pacific Power Shift

November 14, 2012
By Robert K. Ackerman

The nature of forward deployment is changing as the United States adjusts to its Pacific rebalancing.

Marines Assess Direct Airborne Support

March 2012
By Rita Boland, SIGNAL Magazine

The U.S. Marine Corps is testing a set of systems that would enhance communications between air assets and boots on the ground. Troops in Okinawa used the technology initially during U.S.-only evaluations before moving on to experiments in various multinational events. And though the personnel who have experienced the systems in action say work still remains to perfect the offering, they would like to see it fielded if it reaches its potential.

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