That concept of line-of-sight relay also works at
ground level to keep dispersed units connected without satellites, noted Lt. Col. Jeff Kawada, the MAGTF
Electronic Warfare (EW) and Operational Cyber
Operations branch head at CDI.
“If I can talk to my buddy, I can create a network
with him,” Kawada said. And that can be multiplied by
as many other units that are within line-of-sight com-
munications with another. “So we create these mesh
Other tools to create larger meshed networks
Spataro cited are dirigibles or aerostats that can
provide a longer-range communications relay, and
launching the smaller and relatively inexpensive micro
or nano satellites to replace the disrupted strategic
space systems. The Marine Corps is not responsible for
those alternative satellites.
Another conduit for extended communications
without satellites is the high-frequency (HF) radio
spectrum, which can span great distances.
HF is being used but is less desirable for deployed
ground forces “because your data throughput, your
bandwidth, is very low,” said Capt. Edgardo Cardona,
MAGTF EW capabilities integration officer at CDI. “But
there are a lot of advances there and, if you know
what you’re doing, it’s a pretty reliable means of
Like HF, many of the other alternative network
systems can handle smaller amounts of data flow than
the global network, which increases the importance of
another technology CDI is pursing — computer pro-
grams and operating procedures that limit the type and
quantity of data flowing from strategic levels to the
tactical units in the field.
Enabling distributed units “to pull” only the tactical
data they need, rather than being swamped by strategic-level information, is one of the goals of research into
greater autonomy in electronic systems, Cardona said.
“We need to have hardware, [and] software that are
able to know what the commander’s intent is and take
information and put it in a form that’s useful” to the
tactical units, he said.
In dealing with organizations working the C4 issue,
“we said we want scalable operational pictures,”
Cardona said. While the MAGTF commanders have
ample bandwidth and the staff to process that data, the
company commanders and squad leaders in the field
“have Android devices out there, which are simply the
But they can use software to “select what overlays
they want to be fed, via whatever networks, or lack of
networks, that they’re currently in touch with,” he said.
Limiting data flow also is a step toward breaking
the dependency on richly equipped static command
centers that Marines have gotten used to, which is
another of Neller’s targets.
“We got very comfortable with forward-operating
bases with a lot of information, full-motion video whenever we wanted it” and fiber-optics communications,
Foley said, echoing Neller’s complaints. But “computers
have gotten smaller to the point where you have wearable devices” that replace massive television sets “with
something I can wear on my kit.” Now Marines must
train to operate in that limited-information environment while on the move, he added.
That means “going back to my maneuver warfare
roots, mission orders, commander’s intent,” Foley said.
Several of the officers also cited the value of electronic and cyber warfare Marines being able to help the
distributed units by countering the enemy’s ability to
find and target them.
Among the thrusts of the Marine Operating Concept
and Force 2025 “is the ability to take information warfare, under which is EW and cyber capabilities,” and
make them part of the combined arms, indirect fires
effect currently associated with kinetic weapons, Foley
said. He envisioned an EW or cyber Marine, possibly
operating from a great distance, putting “information
fires” on the enemy. n
Marines with Marine Wing Support Squadron 274’s Engineer Company,
Heavy Equipment Platoon, review their map during a land navigation
course at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, N.C., Jan. 13, 2016.
During the 19-point course, 20 Marines headed to the field to gain
experience in the basic land navigation process.