They use the PRC-117 with Ultra-High Frequency
Tactical Satellite (UHF TACSAT) and Adaptive Networking Wideband Waveform (ANW2) as a mobile ad-hoc network. While Marines use accredited Windows-based computer tablets, Malkasian said, any end-user
device may be used to receive and push information.
The two systems create a larger network, “all based off
of line-of-sight. It allows us to do data and voice at the
same time,” Maj Nathan Cahoon, G- 6, a division operations officer, told Seapower. The existing TACSAT network
provides a foot-mobile unit for a reach-back capability, too.
The Marines’ radios act as “nodes,” with the base station at
the operations center receiving and pushing intelligence
out, and the Marine with TACSAT and ANW2 serving as
the “bridge” extending the network. The wired and networked 7-inch tablet a corporal straps to his chest is a leap
from the whiteboards Marines have used for missions like
the long-range raid to San Clemente Island.
“They would have to borrow a cranial headset from
the crew chief, nine times out of 10 … to reach the
guys in the other bird,” Cahoon said. A commander
would scrawl on a white board “and hold it up or pass
it around” to notify them of changes in the mission
information since it’s often too loud to talk.
“Now they can sit there and they can talk and they
can send messages across text or e-mail and share files
and images to all the aircraft,” he said. “More impor-
tantly for these guys … when they go wheels up, they
have the best information they can have. When they
hit the objective in four hours, everything could have
changed, and they wouldn’t have known without a way
to receive this information.”
Battalions and companies can employ the system in
many ways, Malkasian said.
“The key is the flexibility, because no two scenarios
are the same.” But because it’s also “very simple,”
Cahoon said, its flexibility creates a new problem the
division wants to tackle. “We’re now at that point
where we need you to understand it,” so Marines can
better adapt it to a scenario.
The 1st Marine Division’s work is not just about the
grunts. The division has worked with 1st Marine
Logistics Group in training including casualty evacuation. Their manpack radios enabled chat messaging for
corpsmen to provide updates of the patients en route,
officials said, filling what often is a black hole of information before the patient arrives at the next level of care. It
enables Marines to collaborate and update their missions
anywhere, even in transit — and not just in an aircraft.
“It could be a Humvee, it could be an LAV, it could be
an SUV, depending on the security environment,” Cahoon
said. “Their ability to communicate internally is critical.
That reach-back piece for us is essential, to make sure with
higher headquarters that the information is coming in. It
could be a change of mission, it could be just an update
that’s critical to get to that mission commander.”
U.S. Marines with the Maritime Raid Force and Security Element of the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit ride in a CH- 53
Super Stallion during interoperability training aboard Camp Pendleton, Calif., Nov. 20. The Marine Corps is experimenting
with mobile ad-hoc networks that end users can connect to with computer tablets or other devices during long-range raids
and similar missions to receive updates, situational awareness reports and other mission-critical information while en route.