They are providing important feedback and infor-
mation of the ground requirement to Marine Corps
headquarters, including the Digital Interoperability
Working Group. Giving ground forces the same kind
of digital connectivity and information that air crews
routinely have is “the true end state of digital interop-
erability. A sensor should be able to inform everybody,”
Cahoon said. “It all needs to be able to be shared across
platforms to whoever needs it.”
In Yuma, experimentation has advanced since 2009,
when MAWTS- 1 installed a system on the CH-53E
Super Stallion that got point-of-origin of a missile shot
and subsequently worked that into fire support targeting
systems. The Corps’ premier test and training squadron
is leading efforts to build and share digital information
across all the domains and disparate systems.
Maj Orion Jones oversees experiments and tactical
demonstrations as a duty expert on digital interoperability at MAWTS- 1, where “we have really been pushing the envelope” leveraging technology, he told
Seapower. Marine Corps leaders impress that “every
platform” is a sensor, an electronic warfare (EW) node,
a shooter and a connector. So it’s all about the MAGTF.
Hand-selected Infantry Officer Course instructors
go to Yuma to figure out the concepts in Expeditionary
Force 21 for missions like long-range raids during
exercise Talon Reach. MAWTS- 1 also is collaborating
with the Marine Corps Tactics and Operations Group
at Twentynine Palms, Calif.
“It’s mutually beneficial when all this information is
shared, because it accelerates the kill chain for us, for
the guys on the ground. [It provides] enhanced survivability because we have a better SA [situational aware-ness] on where everybody is,” he said.
Jones, a CH- 53 pilot, had shortfalls when he flew missions in Afghanistan. The cockpit video showed the same
terrain and obstacles a ground unit could only estimate as
potential problems, but he could not share it with them.
“All the Marines in the back of my aircraft I’m about
to deliver to that objective area hadn’t even been able to
be on the radio to hear everything that was going on and
all the feedback I’m getting,” he recalled. “They really
were in a time shell. The last information they had was
when they stepped on my plane, and I’m going to deliv-
er them into an unknown environment and they have
not been updated on the changes that happened.”
It is critical, especially if they came under fire at the LZ,
Syncing information on-the-fly is not science fiction.
“Quite frankly, our enemy is doing that, right now
in real time, and we’re not,” Jones said.
Enemy threats use commercial devices and connect
faster on handheld mobile devices and global Wi-Fi net-
works. But Defense Department policy restrictions, secu-
rity and limited simulation and technology spending limit
the ability to tap available commercial systems, he noted.
MAWTS- 1 is working with handheld tablets with
Samsung KNOX 2. 2, software-based encryption simi-
lar to what banks have over a secure Wi-Fi and “good
enough to have a tactical secret network,” he said.
They can network by smartphone or tablets with other
players, including the Naval Research Laboratory
(NRL), Naval Special Warfare Development Group and
U.S. Special Operations Command. And it’s built with
Android interfaces familiar and intuitive to Marines
and Sailors, making training quick and easy.
The deployed Special Purpose MAGTFs are using some
capabilities with tablets and a single network, Jones said,
but the first operational unit to get the extensive package
as a proof-of-concept is the 15th MEU, which deployed in
April. Gateway technology allows aircraft to tie disparate
networks, even those that cannot link together, and push
it to the required message format. The NRL-developed
Software Reprogrammable Payload essentially is a box that
can accommodate different radios and RF cards, “and you
can have new capabilities,” Jones said. “It’s tailorable to the
mission set and who you’re supporting.”
The next step might be the toughest: A portable system
aboard ship to help expeditionary tactical commanders.
Jones said MAWTS- 1 is “attempting” to work with the
Navy’s LHD fleet, but obstacles include separate Navy and
Marine Corps transmission standards. Also in the works is
a payload for small unmanned air systems like the RQ-11B
Raven, extending the network through a gateway and providing non-line-of-sight to serve as a bridge, especially in
situations where ground forces have no air available. He
said the system is a potential interim solution for ground
forces that “don’t want to be dependent on aviation.” ;
Cpl Alexander J. Mattson, a tropospheric scatter radio operator with Alpha Company, 8th Communication Battalion, II
Marine Expeditionary Force, sets up a network to allow himself and others to communicate and share data via satellite
from a Secure Mobile Anti-jam Reliable Tactical Terminal during a field exercise aboard Camp Lejeune, N.C., March 9.
The unit’s mission is to provide single channel radio, voice and
data service to any unit with which it is attached.