Recent U.S. Marine Corps deployments deep into Afghanistan for operation Enduring Freedom have demonstrated the service's growing digitalization. As troops disembarked to locations far from their amphibious ships, connectivity was maintained through a variety of mobile communications systems. On the tactical level, Marines used battlefield intranets to coordinate operations and send digital imagery to their commanders in near real time.
While operating forces are engaged on the front lines of defense and peacekeeping missions worldwide, some military commands and activities are at the forefront of a different type of battle-the one over information systems integration and interoperability. Like their combatant counterparts, these technology warriors have found that collaboration, cooperation and coordination are at the heart of a successful mission.
Unmanned aerial vehicles the size of model airplanes, ruggedized minicomputers that automate calls for air support and remotely controlled rifled mortar capabilities will change the way the U.S. Marine Corps fights on future battlefields. Armed with information they can safely gather about what lurks over the next hill, front-line troops will be able to send accurate data to pilots and commanders so they can respond expeditiously with appropriate fire support.
An experimental communications system may soon connect U.S. Marine Corps units deployed on amphibious operations. Built using current satellite technology linked to radios and battlefield data management devices, the network will connect forward tactical units with task force commanders.
U.S. Marine Corps transformation efforts are seeking to keep humans at the center of an increasingly automated decision cycle. As the service morphs into a network-centric fighting force, planners are designing doctrine and technologies to serve warfighters' needs without burying them in excess information.
The U.S. Marine Corps has built a hybrid-electric land vehicle that could be a harbinger of future battlefield mobility. The combination diesel/battery vehicle would have greater range than existing four-wheeled infantry carriers and would be able to operate quietly without any visible thermal fingerprint.
The U.S. Marine Corps is linking the present to the future with a communications architecture that will allow it to train for new systems even before they are in hand. Using today's technologies, the approach could provide Marines in the field and on the move with the ability to communicate over the horizon by connecting communities of networks through points of presence. The capability effectively emulates many of the network functions that will be available once warfighters are equipped with next-generation
Incidents of fratricide continue to plague the military forces, but the U.S. Marine Corps is examining current technologies that could reduce them by enabling vehicles to identify themselves as friendly in less than one second. By building these types of capabilities to an international standard, joint and coalition forces would benefit, extending protection across the battlespace. The capability is scheduled to be assessed in a coalition combat identification advanced concept technology demonstration during the next fiscal year, and acquisition efforts could begin as early as fiscal year 2006.