said, “as a former strike group commander, where I see
that platform’s value is clearly where it can operate
inside the contested environment, provide the combat-
ant commander, or more importantly, the strike group
commander, information ahead of the strike group. Be
essentially the eyes and ears of the strike group. Also
[have] the ability to do integrated targeting and feed it
back to the strike group commander.”
Davis said the Marines are “about halfway through”
an almost complete transition of its aviation systems.
“The threats we are facing require the new gear.”
The intention is to take “systems and sensors and
capabilities from my aviation component and push
that down to the man on the ground, the Marine on
the ground,” he said.
As an example, he cited the new KC-130J tanker
and transport, which the Marines turned into an ISR
and strike system called Harvest Hawk.
“Half of the airplane carries fuel, the other half we
can use as a weapons platform. So I can pass gas and
shoot. Not at the same time, but on the same mission,”
Davis said. “We used that to great effect in Iraq and
The Marine Corps Aviation Vision says Harvest
Hawk is a “bolt-on/bolt-off ISR/weapons kit” that
includes a wing-mounted day-night sensor, systems to
deploy Hellfire, Griffin or Viper Strike precision muni-
tions and a systems operator station in the cargo bay.
In addition to refueling helicopters and fixed-wing air-
craft, Harvest Hawk “can do convoy escort, overwatch and
also use small precision weapons …
to great effect,” Davis said.
Davis later told Seapower that
Harvest Hawk also can serve as an
ISR collector that can relay
imagery in real time to Marines on
The general cited what the
Marines are doing with their tiltrotor MV-22s as an example of integrating systems to improve
Although the Osprey is probably the “most in-demand airplane”
because its speed and range is so
much greater than current helicopters, that capability can create
problems, Davis said.
The just-retired CH- 46 Sea
Knight helicopter, which had a
combat radius of about 50 miles,
has been replaced “with an airplane
that has a range of 450 miles, without air refueling, and routinely flies
The Marine vision document describes how the
addition of radios and electronic systems to the MV-
22s create an “airborne gateway” that can receive current ISR data and mission information from different
systems to ensure the infantrymen in the Osprey know
what awaits them at their landing zone.
Davis also listed as part of IWC, the Marines’
unmanned aerial systems (UASs), which range from
the hand-launched “family of small UAS” that are
employed by small infantry units for short-range ISR,
to the “small tactical UAS [STUAS]” operated by
Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Squadrons to support
Marine task force commanders.
To increase their expeditionary flexibility, the
Marines are replacing their current STUAS, the RQ-7B
Shadow, which requires a runway to recover, with the
MQ-21A Blackjack, which is arrested in midair by a
wire hanging from a portable antenna. The Blackjack
can operate from land or from amphibious ships at sea.
“Back to my ‘every platform a sensor, every platform
a shooter,’ when I say ‘platform,’ it’s manned,
unmanned, undersea, space capabilities, it’s everything
we have,” Davis said. ■
Marines with Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis Response-Africa run off an MV-22B Osprey during a training mission outside Accra, Ghana,
April 13. The addition of radios and electronic systems to the MV-22s are
planned to create an “airborne gateway” that can receive current data and mission information from different systems to ensure the infantrymen in the Osprey
know what awaits them at their landing zone.