Marines Engage Cooperatively

By Ed Walsh

The demonstrations were part of the annual all-service combat identification exercise held 1-12 September near Gulfport, Mississippi, and during a 16 September fire exercise at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida. The Marine team consolidated the early-development 10,000-pound CEC system into three Humvees, hooked it to the Corps' TPS-59 airdefense radar, and exchanged track data with the Aegis cruiser Cape St. George (CG-71) on station about 30 miles offshore. The Marine site cued the cruiser with target-quality data on an airborne contact 170 nautical miles from the ship.

At Eglin, the system linked with the TPS-59 and again exchanged targeting data with the Cape St. George. The data then were passed to a "HumRAAM"-a Humvee fitted with advanced medium-range air-to-air missiles (AMRAAMs)-and to a Marine Avenger air-defense vehicle (a Humvee armed with ground-to-air Stingers). Using the cooperative targeting data, the Marines successfully fired one AMRAAM and two Stingers.

The tests validated the Corps' ability to use CEC for its primary mission: target engagement. The Marines, though, expect the system to provide far more than targeting.

The benefits to the Navy of a Marine Corps targeting capability are clear. Marine tactical air operations centers and early warning sites in]and could provide early cruise-missile warnings for Navy ships offshore. The Marines could provide the ships with fire-control quality data, permitting them to launch defensive weapons. Conversely, the system could cue Navy ships to engage threat missiles targeting Marine forces ashore, which lack long-range defense against tactical ballistic missiles, and, with the decommissioning of their Hawk missile battalions-a long-simmering controversy within the Corps-also will be vulnerable to short-range missiles.

How relevant will CEC be as Marine Corps units move 100-150 miles inland? The TPS-59, the Marines' only CEC-capable radar, does not operate with troops at the forward edge of the battle area. Will the Marines get other sensors?

Lieutenant Colonel Jim Barrett, air defense and command-and-control requirements officer at the Marine Corps Combat Development Command, says that the Corps intends to dovetail the fielding of the cooperative engagement system with its development of a common aviation command-and-control system, an integrated hardware and software architecture that will replace the many current "stovepipe" systems. Integrating the CEC's common track picture with the new system, he says, will enhance the Corps' ability to control all tactical air operations.

Meanwhile, CEC is expected to serve as the foundation for development of a joint composite tracking network to provide sensor-to-shooter targeting data to Air Force, Army, and Marine Corps weapon systems. It also will be the baseline for a single integrated air picture for higher-echelon planning. Marines are honing their command-and-control skills to tighten their relationship with the Navy. Headquarters Marine Corps has directed that the new command-and-control system must be compatible functionally with Navy processes. Navy-Marine Corps teaming for littoral operations dictates compatibility with the Navy procedures during ship-to-shore movements. Once ashore, the Corps must be interoperable with the Air Force's theater battle-management system, particularly the contingency theater autonomous planning system (CTAPS) subset, which prescribes air-tasking order procedures. "If we're not compatible, we don't play," says a senior Marine official.

All the services' systems are required to be compliant with the Defense Department's Defense Information Infrastructure Common Operating Environment. CEC will enhance the Corps' role in joint air defense-but also underlines the urgency of the Marine requirement to bridge Air Force and Navy command-and-control systems. Meanwhile, it frames the debate more sharply regarding the scope of all-service integration of command and control and about the degree to which "jointness" may be possible.

 

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