A modernized aviation command and control system for the U.S. Marine Corps likely will be deployed to Afghanistan before the year is out. The new system provides a common aviation command and control platform and is expected to improve situational awareness and information assurance while making the Marine Corps fighting forces more mobile.
The U.S. Marine Corps hopes a forward operating base that obtains its power from renewable energy sources will benefit the force in many ways—especially by saving lives. Eliminating the need for fuel deliveries lowers the number of convoys and exposed troops on treacherous roads in perilous places. The experimental base also could reduce the amount of equipment Marines take into theater, ensuring the Corps remains an expeditionary force. With the tools in the battlespace now, program officials are waiting to hear how the concept performs in combat.
The U.S. Marine Corps is shifting its immersive training to reflect the massive relocation of its troops from Iraq to Afghanistan. Although the Corps continues preparing Marines for an urban battlefield, now it also is coaching them in additional tasks critical to fighting and preserving the peace in a country that is as different from Iraq as Idaho is from southern Arizona. Actors and avatars bring so much realism to the training that troops returning from operations say it is enough to make them believe they are back in Afghanistan.
The head information technology officer for the Marine Corps, Brig. Gen. Kevin Nally, USMC, is grappling with several projects necessary to keep critical information flowing smoothly and securely. Gen. Nally’s efforts include dramatically streamlining a sprawling information technology infrastructure, overseeing the Defense Department’s information assurance range, protecting information in the era of social networks and WikiLeaks and transitioning from the Navy-Marine Corps Intranet to the Next Generation Enterprise Network.
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 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.
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.
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.
By Kathleen Bahr and Maj. Fritz Doran, USMC (Ret.)
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 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.