“Power down,” Nicholson implored the conference.
“Let’s get the information that we need on a reliable net-
work into the hands of the warfighter that actually is
going to be getting on the ground, doing his mission.”
The Marine Corps, in its own 2015 Aviation Plan,
acknowledges it is far short of meeting the need for
digital interoperability among the MAGTF.
“The current MAGTF networking architecture is com-
prised of a series of disparate networks and waveforms
which rarely facilitate the needs of the entire MAGTF. …
Information on the battlefield can be stove piped: infor-
mation that works in some areas but not others, which
cannot be shared across the MAGTF or the joint force.”
The 1st Marine Division’s ground force-focused experi-
mentation is one of several ongoing efforts this spring to
bolster digital interoperability across the Corps. In Yuma,
Ariz., Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron 1
(MAWTS- 1) is on its fifth iteration exploring rapidly
evolving systems — including an airborne mobile Wi-Fi
network for ground forces — during the biannual
Weapons and Tactics Instructor Course to help fill gaps
and form future requirements. At Camp Pendleton, Calif.,
the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) prepared to
deploy with the Essex Amphibious Ready Group with a
digital package designed to provide better communica-
tions and more bandwidth on, and off, the ship.
“It’s come a long way,” Col.
George Malkasian, G- 6, the division’s
assistant chief of staff for communi-
cations, said during an interview at
his Camp Pendleton office. “The
push is to really extend that connec-
tivity down to the squad leader level.
There’s been a long-standing require-
ment on that, but we hadn’t necessar-
ily had the technology to do that.”
In December, during exercise Steel
Knight, an infantry raid force flew a
three-hour mission on MV- 22 Osprey
tiltrotor aircraft from Miramar Ma-
rine Corps Air Station in San Diego
to a target on San Clemente Island.
“We moved the missile. We
moved the aggressor force. We added
more aggressors. We changed everything, and we took pictures of it from
ISR [intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance] and we tried to see if we
could get it to that raid force,” Nicholson told the conference. Throughout, the raid force commander also
had to share that information with
his Marines on other aircraft.
It was not perfect, but, Malkasian
said, “we learned a lot of lessons.” The Marines with 3rd
Battalion, 7th Marines, needed additional training using
the equipment, but the system “worked exactly as
designed.” The raid force commander, using the
Windows-based tablets tethered to the radio system,
could chat from the MV- 22 “into our COC [Combat
Operations Center at Camp Pendleton] the entire time,
the 30- or 40-minute flight back to Twentynine Palms,”
he said. The digital link “was constant, and nearly real
time. It was fantastic.”
During another exercise, a raid force flew 250 miles
from Camp Pendleton to an objective north of Las Vegas.
Using chat and file transfer, Malkasian said, “we were
able to send updated imagery to the back of the aircraft
and were able to chat with the raid force as they flew to
the objective, as well as be able to track their progress.”
In April, the division again tested the system during
exercise Desert Scimitar, outfitting Marines riding in
light armored vehicles (LAVs) with 1st Light Armored
Reconnaissance Battalion with another LAV at the bat-
talion combat operations center at Fort Irwin, Calif.
An MV-22-borne infantry raid force will keep the
system when they exit the aircraft with their PRC-
117Gs, so “the network stays with them,” Malkasian
said. “The Marines carrying their radios are the network, essentially.”
59 WWW.SEAPOWERMAGAZINE.ORG SEAPOWER / MAY 2015
U.S. Marine Cpl Kuamutsua Xiong, a radio operator with Battalion Landing Team
3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, moves under
the concealment of smoke during a combined arms exercise aboard Marine Corps
Air Ground Combat Center, Twentynine Palms, Calif., Dec. 17. The ultimate goal
of a series of recent Marine Corps experiments and exercises is to provide truly
joint digital interoperability that can link every warfighter.