In a recent presentation at the Air Force Association, Col. Michael Orr, the CO of VMX-22, provided a look at how the USMC is shaping its combat cloud approach for the MAGTF. At the heart of the approach is working the following challenge:
“We are pushing big picture CAOC-type information down to secure laptops or secure tablets in the back of a tactical aircraft en route to an objective area.”
Based on his recent experiences in working with the Infantry Officer’s Course and with Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron or MAWTS-1, Col. Orr discussed the USMC approach to shaping what might be called the combat cloud for the air-ground team.
Col. Orr underscored that for the USMC digital interoperability was about empowering warfighters. He argued that the experience of pilots in having significant connectivity and situational awareness was not the same as what the ground combat element or GCE in the USMC was experiencing.
He described this as a split between the haves and the have-nots. In the air combat world, pilots and air controllers have seen significant gains in connectivity and ISR. For many of the ground troops they were operating in virtually Vietnam era conditions with radio coms as the key link.
The Marines have been changing dramatically key aspects of how they insert force, notably around the Osprey. With a rotorcraft, the ground forces and commanders get on the helo and arrive within the hour at the objective area. In an air-refuelable Osprey, the ground forces and commander might spend several hours in the back before reaching the objective area; and obviously, not being informed and able to do mission planning in route is unacceptable. Whatever gains one might get with speed and range will be lost without enhanced C2 and ISR enabling the GCE in flight to the objective area.
“Our passion right now is taking all of the airborne sensors and off board that tactical information to a warfighter in the back of that Osprey whether it’s an air mission commander, or whether it’s a ground force assault commander, bringing that sensor-based information to him so he can make smart and intelligent decisions en route.”