Marine Corps News Release
Division of Public Affairs, Headquarters, United States Marine Corps, Washington, DC 20380-1775
Commercial: (703) 614-7678/9 DSN: 224-7678/9 FAX: (703) 697-5362
Story by NOTE: The preceding article was compiled from reports by the Hunter Warrior Public Affairs staff -- Staff Sgt. Arturo Prioletta, Sgt. Jake Messier and Pfc. Kurt Smay.
NEW CONCEPTS, TECHNOLOGIES UNVEILED DURING WARFIGHTING EXPERIMENT
MARINE CORPS AIR-GROUND COMBAT CENTER, Twentynine Palms, Calif. -- Southern California's Mojave Desert served as a battleground March 1-15 for an ambitious experiment in which the Marine Corps tested new concepts and advanced technology for tomorrow's battlefield.
The Marine Corps conducted Advanced Warfighting Experiment Hunter Warrior with a Marine Air-Ground Task Force that was a lighter, more mobile, and versatile force. Instead of infantry platoons and squads, the Marines were divided into teams of six to eight men. These Marine combat units -- armed with high speed computers and new concepts -- sought to destroy the enemy and survive on the battlefield without the cumbersome combat service support element at their tail.
Enter the combat service support operations center at the CSS Enterprise, whose mission was to re-supply the dispersed units in the battlefield as they called in for support with modern communication gadgets. In the scenario, the CSS Enterprise simulated a ship stationed off shore of a fictitious war-torn country.
"The intent for the automated CSS Operations Center was to relieve the footprint and inventory that you would normally have in traditional combat service support elements ashore," said 1st Lt. Jackie D. Harris, the CSSOC forward operations officer. "It replaced that with the speed of information that's provided within the multiple systems we used in the CSSOC."
With few adjustments to the system, the experiment on the CSSE's end validated the capability to provide support to a deployed unit without having the load of supplies near the battlefield. It also tested concepts of rapidly fulfilling requests on-line, tracked and managed resources of deployed small units, and provided real-time updates to the "customer."
"It gave us near real-time visibility of personnel, equipment, and assets we have available, information on the enemy, and friendly forces in the field that require supplies," said Harris. "Normally, you have to wait on a unit to ask for support, and then for us to be tasked. Now, we can see when a unit is getting low on supplies, and start anticipating and preparing. It's changing our response time from a long preparation window to a shorter execution window. That's the big intent of this CSSOC, and that's why there are so many computers being used here and by units in the field."
(SUBHEAD) Trial and Error
The system, however, has yet to be perfected. The delay between a team's request from the field through the Newton Ericsson computer and the CSSOC's ability to execute and re-supply the team is still not as speedy as it should be.
"But it's still a lot further along than the conventional paper method," said Harris of the Newton. This computer system is a hand-held, digitized platform that gives real-time details on the battlefield and logistics through maps and graphics. A warrior can also request supplies through the system.
The re-supply request generally went via the Newton from a battalion landing team in the field in Twentynine Palms to the enhanced combat operations center connector, and then to the CSSOC Main at Camp Pendleton 150 miles away. It then arrived at the CSSOC Forward where action was taken.
"The loop is pretty near real-time even though it's quite intense," Harris said. "We can see the request about the same time our CSSOC Main can see it."
Another obstacle to overcome is the fragility of some computer equipment when used in a combat environment.
"We came out to the field with seven TLACS3 (tactical level automated combat service support system) computers. We have five that are still operating," said Harris, who had been at the CSS Enterprise since early January. "The two that went down had some hardware problems. Generally, it's been very successful. Maintaining five of the original seven in three months was pretty good." The TLACS3 assesses information similar to the Newton system, but on a larger scale. This information aids the combat service support element commander and staff in making decisions.
(SUBHEAD) A Web of Support
The TLACS3 was only one of many systems used at the CSSOC. "It's our system of choice because it provides a lot of logistical information that's not provided by any of the other systems," said Harris. "It gives us visibility of our service support elements that are in the field, with all classes of supplies that they carry. It also provides us with situational awareness of the battlefield as it relates to enemy and friendly units."
This system, along with others such as Lotus Notes Rapid Request Tracking System and video conferencing, were all tied together to work in unison. "None of them could run the CSSOC alone," said Harris. "Individually, each could not provide us with visibility of the battlefield and troops, or the capability to anticipate requests."
In the experiment, the simulated CSS Enterprise was off the "shore" of the nation they were defending, while the CSSOC Main ship was 150 miles away. "We could function independently if the other ship were to go down, since there are two separate servers, two separate systems that tie together," said Harris. "If they go down, we would cut that link between us and become the main focus of effort. They are purposely designed in this redundant manner in case something happens to either system during battle."
Key in tying all the technology together was the Simulation Center here. This is a technical fusion, modeling, and dedication center where digital updates from the "blue" friendly forces in the field flowed in and, simultaneously, to the ECOC at Camp Pendleton. The Simulation Center was manned by 30 to 40 people, led by a battle chief and assistant.
"These location updates have been working well," said Col. Anthony A. Wood, director of the Commandant's Warfighting Lab in Quantico, Va. "They mark a great departure from the conventional method of receiving locations and other reports by radio, and scribbling the soon-to-be-outdated information on an acetate overlay."
In this process, calls for fire go to the ECOC personnel who, in turn, send fire orders, targets, weapons, and other numbers, back to the Simulation Center where they are assessed. If a target is hit, the information is passed to the observer-controller within that unit in the field.
"That is the theory," said Wood. "But it is far from perfect at this time. Damage estimate is not as accurate as we would want, and it's not getting out to all the affected units in a timely manner."
"Hand-held computers are as essential as hand grenades on the battlefield of the future," said Col. James A. Lasswell, head of Experimental Operations at the Commandant's Warfighting Lab. The battlefield is instrumented in that it has observer-controllers and digital recording devices to help update unit positions, and coordinate fire and maneuver. Every team had Global Positioning System capabilities to ensure location accuracy.
"Communication from units in the field to the ECOC, 150 miles away, has gone well," said Lasswell. "However, early evidence showed that the technology was better prepared at finding targets than at killing them with dispatch."
Nonetheless, the near real-time input from the units worked well in keeping their superiority over the "red" enemy forces.
(SUBHEAD) The Opposing Force
The opposition forces' commanding officer, Col. James Walsh, said that because of the lack of air superiority and national assets, they had to re-think some of their tactics, including operating in a dispersed mode, and using cover and concealment. In the first few days, they used reconnaissance and light armed reconnaissance and had to avoid pre-placed ground sensors.
"We're out there to challenge this equipment as much as we possibly can," said Walsh. "We did this to uncover the weaknesses. Obviously, if we can't uncover those weaknesses, than it's a good piece of gear for us to buy.
"What we found extremely interesting about this whole experiment was the tremendous capability the special MAGTF had against us," said Walsh. "The targeting system, the X-Drone, and the other equipment was really a combat multiplier on their behalf. If you can take that equipment and incorporate it into a larger force, you would have a lethality that is unbelievable."
Of all the new equipment tested, the X-Drone unmanned aerial vehicle was probably feared the most by the opposition force. Its stealth, 92-pound frame, and two cameras make it flexible enough to support reconnaissance missions from the air.
"Every time we heard (the X-Drone) fly above, we knew we were going to be hit," Walsh said. "The only way we could survive was to displace. You really can't keep that up forever. Pretty soon your systems are going to break down."
New Training Package
Before the experiment, enlisted Marines trained for five months on survivability, reconnaissance, artillery techniques, risk evaluation, and problem-solving.
"In Hunter Warrior, we are examining how well this training package has prepared our squads for dispersed operations on the extended battlefield," said Wood.
In the preparatory phase, March 1-2, the experiment focused on reconnaissance, surveillance, and intelligence preparation of the battlefield. No ground team on either side reported being under fire. This implies that the tactics, techniques, and procedures the units employed to counter modern technology were successful, according to Lasswell.
The friendly forces' patrolling skills were challenged by the superior night observation technology used by the opposition force. This was a new twist since American forces usually have a technological advantage against the enemy, according to Lasswell.
The "New" Marine Warriors
"The 'heart' of Hunter Warrior was not the technology or command centers, it was Marines," said Lasswell. "They will be the ones facing the enemy, everything else is in support."
"The best thing that came out of this is the forward observer/forward air controller system," said Sgt. Erick L. Jones, a patrol leader on the friendly forces side. "My squad had nothing but success with it. You can put out five missions in the time that you put one out the conventional way."
Another patrol leader on the same side as Jones, Sgt. David E. Miller, thought the concept of independent units on a dispersed battlefield was sound. "For a long time it's been the thought that only lieutenants could call for fire. This shows that there is a high caliber of personnel in the enlisted ranks with the maturity and responsibility to get the job done."
With the advent of new technology comes the need for less manpower to run operations at the CSSOC. Cpl. Javed R. Baloch, 19, of Hattiesburg, Miss., is the operations chief who monitors all the requests and command and control systems at the CSSOC. He and Harris, along with the watch officer, make the system work in the forward. Compared to a traditional CSSOC, where there are usually eight to 10 Marines, this one was run with three.
"When the systems work, they're outstanding," said Baloch. "In the past few weeks they've been working quite well, considering the fast pace with which we developed them. There are some small limitations, but the concept works well."
Now that Hunter Warrior has ended, much thought will be placed on how everything worked and what changes will be implemented in Marine Corps warfighting. Even though information gathered to date is preliminary, Hunter Warrior appears to have shown much improvement in situational awareness, improvement in command and control, and better technology and training for future Marines, according to Lasswell.
(NOTE: The preceding article was compiled from reports by the Hunter Warrior Public Affairs staff -- Staff Sgt. Arturo Prioletta, Sgt. Jake Messier and Pfc. Kurt Smay.)