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Subject: USMC Puts The Evolution Of Distributed Operations To The Test
SCCOMarine    12/9/2009 5:41:52 PM
This summer the Corps will conduct its first Limited Objective Exercise (LOE), basically a testing for proof of concept, that will combine several revolutionary concepts its been working on the last few yrs. 1st) Sea Basing-which is the concept of combining the efforts of all 4 Branches to launch & sustain nearly all future combat, humanitarian, etc. missions from a flotilla of Naval & Civilian MPS shipping anywhere from 50-150miles out to sea. This is a concept the Marines have been working on since the mid '90s. It will alleviate the months long burden of a large US build up in neighboring countries. This involves (1) the headache of negotiating lopsided agreements w/neighboring countries, (2) the pain of the slow build up of Manpower & Equipment, (3) the eventual drawdown, & (4) the often overlooked & extremely expensive Force Protection Issues. 2nd) Enhanced Company Operations- this is the evolution of DO. Taking the gains fr/ the successful DO Concept of Squads & Platoons operating @ potentially extremely extended ranges, independently under Comp & Battln guidance. ECO develops the Companies to handle this new authority & properly support these Dispersed Units while also operating @ extremely ext'd ranges. Besides Company Level Ops & Intel Cells the Co's will also now have there own Scout & Reconnaissance Section that will be consist of 2 five-man teams. Its unknown to me at this time if the teams will be made up of 0321s (Recon) or 0317s (Scout/Snipers) or some mix of the 2. 3rd) A myriad of Unmanned Technologies including Unmanned Ground Vehicles -wheeled, UGV pack-animal quadraped, & various UAV & ISR platforms. 4th) Testing the possible Utility of attaching a 155mm Howitzer Plt w/each Company. 5th) A Data & Communications Network that will allow Platoons to communicate & exchange Data at ranges out to 150miles. 6th) Testing the Aviation Combat Element & Logistical Combat Element ability to support ext'd Companies & their maneuver units. It will be conducted at Kahuku training range in Hawaii which was chosen due to its Mountainous terrain & dense vegetation to challenge the whole Concept of dispersion at those ranges. To test the concept to its limits it will also be conducted against an active Red Cell opponent.
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SCCOMarine       12/10/2009 6:24:08 PM
Date: November 2, 2009
The Marine Corps Warfighting Lab plans to conduct its first ever seabasing experiment in Hawaii next summer.
The experiment is slated to take place on the island of Oahu. Expeditionary forces will be launched from a sea base off the coast and land on rough terrain on the island, where they will carry out experiments designed to test the effectiveness of several concepts being mulled by the Warfighting Lab, including new rifle company billeting arrangements, unmanned ground vehicles attached to companies as pack mules and organic indirect fire support. Many of the concepts have been subject to previous scrutiny from the Lab, but have never been tested from a sea base.
"We're morphing some of what we did with the early days of [enhanced company operations] looking at more of an expeditionary sea-based character," said Vince Goulding, director of the lab's experiment division, in an Oct. 29 interview with Inside the Navy. "And that's really the event that we're doing next summer, is to really put some meat on those bones."
The experiment has been dubbed Limited Objective Experiment Four, and will use the amphibious assault ship Bonhomme Richard (LHD-6) and the Kahuku Training Area to test the concept of seabasing, which involves using a group of ships as a platform for launching operations. Goulding said the primary objective will be to identify capability gaps in the Warfighting Lab's new approaches at all levels of command.
The Warfighting Lab plans to test out some ideas that they've been examining for some time, including new personnel configurations for Marine rifle companies. The experiment will test the results of doubling the size of headquarters staff to allow companies to function more independently, eliminating some positions, like rifle platoon guides, that don't appear to be useful, and the creation of scout sections with the ability and training to communicate with air fires support. Marines will also bring along their own artillery, with two Howitzers tagging along with a company.
Goulding said the addition of the Howitzers is an attempt to find ways to deal with the massive amount of terrain that each company has to cover in a theater like Afghanistan, which already necessitates splitting up and spreading out artillery units. However, the move comes with risks, including the possibility that dragging along Howitzers could slow the Marines down, and that the artillery units could be vulnerable to attack while they provide fire support for the company.
"It's not going to take a rocket scientist to figure out that there are Howitzers around," Goulding said. "When you shoot one of those damn things, it's not exactly a stealthy event. The bad guys are going to figure that out. There's a lot of implications here with this particular concept that we need to look very critically and carefully at."
The experiment will also test new technologies, including unmanned ground vehicles. Unmanned vehicles were used with limited success in the lab's June testing at the Mountain Warfare Training Center near Bridgeport, CA. Goulding said the unmanned humvees seemed to work well in theory, but in practice had difficulty navigating the mountain terrain.
"The systems are really in their infancy stages," Goulding said. "What these are trained to do is not run over people. They'll even stop for a stop sign. I mean, they're that sophisticated. But they'll also stop for a boulder the size of a football on the road. Well, you don't want them to do that. If they're trying to get ammunition to a rifle squad, the squad doesn't really give a damn if it runs over a boulder. But it's trying to impart that human intelligence into an unmanned system. It's challenging."
The Bridgeport experiment tested the concept of using unmanned vehicles to resupply troops and move casualties. The experiment in Oahu will focus on embedding unmanned vehicles with a squad to carry gear and protective equipment.
"Our thinking is, if these things can carry some of that squad's gear, we can reduce some of the weight these Marines are carrying," Goulding said. "Maybe we put a day's worth of water and ammunition and food in these things so the Marines aren't carrying them."
Goulding said the Marines will be using small off-road wheeled vehicles made by Polaris. However, he said that wheeled vehicles may have trouble following Marines through rough terrain. He noted that that challenge is w
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SCCOMarine    Operational Objectives Of The LOE   12/30/2009 3:42:46 PM
War Lab to Apply Seabasing and ?Three Block War? to Counterinsurgency
Company to carry out two-part mission
November 23, 2009--The Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory's experiment in Oahu, HI, next summer will examine the applications of enhanced company operations and seabasing concepts on a counterinsurgency mission.
Limited Objective Experiment 4, which will run in conjunction with the Rim of the Pacific Exercise, will represent the culmination of the LOE 3 family of experiments, which have tested new gear, such as communications and power generator equipment, and new concepts, including the idea of devolving much of the authority and responsibility for operations down to the company, platoon and squad levels.
LOE 4 will take these concepts, combined with all of the logistics of launching the mission from a ship, the Bonhomme Richard (LHD-6), and use them to fight a fictional insurgency in a friendly island nation.
"It'll be a series of counterinsurgency-type missions," said Australian Maj. Damian Hill, an exchange officer with the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory. "So the opposing force will be hybrid in nature. It'll have some high-end capability, but invariably it will be operating small, with some low-tech weapons but some high-tech [command and control]. We're not trying to create an enemy that simulates what we're facing in Afghanistan, but it has that type of flavor."
The exercise will challenge the Marine Corps structure by requiring a single company commander to conduct two missions at the same time: carrying out an air invasion of the island from the north to engage in combat with the insurgents, and landing amphibiously on the south end of the island to help the allied local government protect its key infrastructure assets, carry out civil humanitarian missions and track down and capture persons of interest.
"For the company commander in the north, he has two missions for one company, which is very unusual," Hill said. "It's not unusual currently, but it's certainly not the way we train, so he'll have to work through that. And the distance between those two is also complex."
Hill said the scenario essentially updates the concept of the "three block war" postulated by Gen. Charles Krulak in the late 1990s to describe complex battlefields where warfighters have to carry out both combat and peaceful missions in a small space (i.e. three city blocks) at the same time.
"That same rule applies," said Hill. "It's just [that] the blocks are now tens of miles apart as opposed to a city mile apart."
In addition to the distance between the two invading forces, the exercise will force the company to cope with the distance between the action on the ground and the sea base, which will begin heading back out to sea once the Marines are ashore.
New communications technologies developed by the warfighting lab will be used to try to bridge that gap. The lab has been working on a software upgrade for communications satellites that will extend the range of Distributed Tactical Communication System radios by 100 to 150 miles, which Capt. Nathan Cahoon, who is leading MCWL's communications effort, says will be vital for allowing the Bonhomme Richard to maintain contact with the fighters on the ground.
"When LOE 4 kicks off, the plan is to have the ship over the horizon, so it's at least going to be 20 miles out," said Cahoon. "We essentially wanted to do the upgrade from 100 miles to 150 miles because, once that ship is at 20 miles and it ships everyone ashore, it's going to float away. It's not going to hang that close to a combat zone, so it's going to start floating away, and we're going to see how far away we can float without losing communications."
By meshing a seabasing capability with tactics designed to fight an insurgency, Hill said the lab is trying to make the Marines' current operations compatible with their long-term purpose beyond the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as an amphibious force.
"The key aspect of what we're doing, it's to support the operating force currently in theater, but also to provide the fidelity required to meet [Marine Commandant Gen. James Conway's] Vision and Strategy 2025," said Hill. "At the end of the day they'll both wind up being the same. So they're parallel parts, and we're starting to converge to that one point in 2025 where what we're doing to support the warfighter is exactly the same as what we're
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SCCOMarine    New Squad Comms w/extended ranges of 100-250miles   1/11/2010 2:59:58 PM
Warfighting Lab Experiments With New Communications Systems: Satellite upgrades, passive relay extend range

Date: November 30, 2009- The Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory is experimenting with ways to keep Marines more connected in the complex environments they operate in today.

The lab is adopting a two-pronged effort, the first part of which is aimed at keeping troops on the squad and platoon level in touch with each other, while the second is geared toward extending reachback capabilities via netted Iridium satellites.

At the level of the individual Marine, Capt. Nate Cahoon said the lab is testing Trellisware mobile ad-hoc networks that would relieve troops from having to relay messages manually from one radio to another in order to reach someone who is out of broadcasting range.

"I ran communications for a year in-country [in Iraq]," Cahoon said, "and the most annoying thing was that I had to assign relay people within the convoy because I couldn't, from the front vehicle, talk to the back vehicle. So every time I saw something and said something, designated people would have to repeat it for it to keep going back to the last person."

The Trellisware system would still use intermediate radios to relay messages, but would do so passively, bumping the message along from radio to radio on free channels without requiring the intervention of an operator. Aside from eliminating unnecessary tasks, this method should also free up time and channels on radios, allowing for faster communication.

"It's a smarter way for people from the smallest individual level to be able to correspond and talk all the way up without having to manually relay," Cahoon said.

The lab is also experimenting with ways to keep squad leaders connected to vital information by giving them personal assistant devices similar to a smart phone that would allow them to text or chat with other members of their squad and track them with GPS.

"I don't want to go out too far here," Cahoon said, "but potentially we can have it so a commander can see every person on the battlefield."

According to Cahoon, this could help lift the "fog of war" by giving commanders exact information on where their Marines are even in chaotic situations like firefights, and even if the Marines themselves can't determine their own location. This could potentially prevent friendly fire, or at least allow leaders to provide firepower with confidence that their own troops aren't in the way.

The system has already been tested with Marines at Camp Lejeune, and Cahoon said the results were better than he expected. The system was designed for urban combat environments and uses a wavelength prone to absorption, so Cahoon feared that the foliage where the tests took place would cause interference with the signal. In fact, Cahoon said the signal did surprisingly well.

"The Marines loved it," he said. "They loved the ability that they could be as spread out as they were and they didn't have to manually relay."

The personal assistant device will be hooked up to an Iridium satellite communication system, which also allows squads to communicate with people about 100 miles away. Cahoon said that the lab is currently working on doubling that range with a software upgrade.

Currently, signals from a Distributed Tactical Communication System reach up to a satellite, and are then relayed back to earth from via a spot beam. With the software upgrade, the signal will be beamed through both the receiving spot beam and all the surrounding spot beams on the satellite, extending the range of the signal by 100 miles to 150 miles.

"Essentially, I have a satellite push-talk radio with a range of about 100 to 250 miles depending on how the software upload goes," Cahoon said.

According to Cahoon, expanding satellite communication capabilities will help Marines carry out distributed operations because they will be able to travel farther afield while keeping contact with their base.

"The Trellisware is a radio for every Marine, so that'll create their little mesh network for their platoon or squad," said Cahoon. "And then squad leaders and platoon staff will have DTCS, and DTCS allows them, if the squad gets more dispersed from the platoon, they can still maintain communication from squad to platoon. This is the way that the platoon will be able to operate from way far away from the company."

Both systems will be tested at limited objective experiment 3.2 at Camp Lejeune this December, and
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