Expeditionary Basing and C2: A Key Challenge Facing the USMC in Shaping a Way Ahead


By Robbin Laird

I have been focusing in a series of articles on the mobile basing role of the USMC within the evolving maritime kill web approach.

Earlier articles highlighted key requirements to perform expeditionary basing, as well as challenges facing sustainment and support for such a force.

A key element of the challenge which must be met is the command and control required to operate a distributed force which is integratable with the appropriate air-maritime force.

This allows the expeditionary force  both to make its maximal contribution to operations as well as to enhance its survivability.

As I noted in the discussion with Major James Everett, head of the Assault Support Department at MAWTS-1: “With the shift from the land wars, where the Marines were embedded within CENTCOM forces, C2 was very hierarchical.

“This clearly is not going to be practicable or efficacious with a distributed insertion force.

“Working mission command for a force operating in a degraded environment is a key challenge, but one which will have to be met to deliver the kind of distributed mobile based force which the Marines can provide for the joint and coalition force, and not just only in the Pacific, but would certainly provide a significant capability as well for the fourth battle of the Atlantic.”

I continued the discussion of the C2 challenges associated with expeditionary basing with Maj Tywan Turner Sr., TACC Division Head, Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron 1. The Tactical Air Command Center, or TACC, provides oversight and direction of aerial battles and aircraft movement in an operational environment and at WTI plays a key role in integrating aviation assets from the West Coast, East Coast and overseas.

The digital interoperability effort which I have focused on in a number of articles earlier is a central piece of working C2 for mobile basing.

The challenge has been that the legacy approach has been to make C2 and ISR capabilities inherent to specific platforms, and then the task is to do after market integration and to work these disparate platforms together for operations.

And during the land wars, the size of the C2 capabilities evolved over time, but the reduction in size of the servers is providing a significant opportunity to bring C2 to the tactical edge as well.

Moving forward, combing enhanced digital interoperability with much smaller footprint server capabilities to manage C2 data will provide a way ahead for working to deploy more efficacious expeditionary deployable C2.

The Aviation Command and Control System is referred to as “Common” because all MACCS agencies either have or are planning to adopt the software and equipment suite.

Prior to the hard the shift toward Naval Integration, it was a major step toward digital interoperability.

But the baseline Common Aviation Command and Control System (CAC2S) during the land wars has operated from a Humvee frame, which obviously is not the best way to work the ship to shore concepts of operations which expeditionary C2 will require.

As Major Turner put it: “We need a smaller mousetrap to do C2 in the expeditionary basing environment.”

The Marines are working with a CAC2S smaller form factor to meet the evolving needs for force insertion.

They are experimenting with decreasing the footprint of the server-software configuration to make it more deployable and overcome mobility and sustainment limitation (lift required, power requirements & fuel, cooling).

According to Major Turner: “CAC2S small-form factor SFF, also has also shown early promise in being incorporated aboard naval vessels.”

It could provide enhanced digital interoperability between expeditionary bases and Naval strike groups as well.

With regard to working the CAC2S deployable system, a correlated effort is working new ways to handle the wave forms which the ashore force would need in a variety of expeditionary environments.

And along with this effort, clearly signature management is a key consideration as well.

In my view, a key element revolves specifically over which wave forms need to be deployed with an expeditionary basing force, for those wave forms will determine with which force elements the Marines can integrate with both to achieve their mission but also to support the broader integrated distributable force.

In an earlier article, I focused on the central significance of the strategic or tactical mission assigned to an insertion force to an expeditionary base.

And that mission set will be highly correlated with which wave forms are available to the insertion force either afloat or ashore.

Clearly, a major challenge facing USMC-USN integratability revolves precisely around how best to ensure integratable C2.

Are the Marines decision makers operating from expeditionary bases or are they nodes in a fire control network?

Notably, the potential expansion of the role of the ampbhious task force to play an enhanced role in sea control and sea denial, which I have discussed earlier, and will build out in future articles, clearly requires C2 which allows for the Marines to be decision makers within the kill web force, not just working as a transmission belt in the firing solution set.

With the new computational technologies, which allow for the enablement of the internet of things at the tactical edge, the capability for the Marines to play the decision-making role with an extended kill web can be emphasized and enhanced going forward.

For the Marines to play a decision-making role from mobile basing, there is a key challenge as well associated with the evolution of the wave forms enabling deployed integratability.

There needs to be management of the various wave forms to deliver what one might call a 360-degree waveform delivery system to the deployed Marines, to have both the situational awareness as well as the decision space to support the proper scheme of maneuver from the mobile base.

By 360 degree, I am referring to an ability to manage wave forms which provide management of the ship to shore to airborne platform space to deliver the kill web effect. Such a a 360-degree solution should also support all-domain access (specifically the space and cyberspace domains) to information that is normally held at the operational level.

If the Marines are deploying strike teams to expeditionary basing, how best to ensure that they have the 360-degree waveform capability to achieve mission success?

Featured Photo: Tactical air defense controllers and air control electronics operators with Marine Air Control Squadron 24, 4th Marine Aircraft Wing run simulations on the new Common Aviation Command and Control System (CAC2S) Sept. 12, 2013. The Marines received training on the new systems during their fielding of the new system, which was the final fielding in Phase I of the CAC2S program.



Photo by Sgt. Scott McAdam 

Fleet Marine Force Atlantic, U.S. Marine Corps Forces Command

See also, the following:

C2, the Knowledge Base and the Kill Web

Working Mobile Basing: Defining the Challenge

The Digital Interoperability Initiative and Mobile Basing: A Key Enabler

The USMC and Mobile Basing: The Contributions of Forward Arming and Refueling Points (FARPs)

Fighting with the Force You Have: Moving Forward with Mobile Expeditionary Basing