Camp H.M. Smith, Hawaii --
"The Future is Now." That phrase is as true today in the United States Marine Corps as it is anywhere.
In late January through early February, Pacific Marines from California and Japan demonstrated their ability to work together and synchronize all-domain effects from Hawaii across the Indo-Pacific region for the Joint force and interagency partners.
During the exercise, Marines from I MEF’s Marine Air Control Group 38 (MACG-38), and other critical enablers including the I MEF Information Group (MIG) and Fires and Effects Coordination Center (FECC), deployed to Hawaii from southern California and Arizona. In Okinawa, Japan, III MEF forces brought together capabilities at the task-force level in the First Island Chain (FIC), and served as a higher-echelon node for the I MEF team now operating in Hawaii.
"We rapidly went from an idea to establishing a fully-functional command and control structure that can connect two MEF-level Task Forces as Pacific Marines, stretching from Okinawa to Oahu," said Col. Jeremy S. Winters, the commanding officer of MACG-38, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing.
Once on the ground in Hawaii, this team established and operated an expeditionary command and control (C2) node from an austere location using both organic equipment as well as equipment provided by III MEF forces.
"We fell in on 3rd Marine Littoral Regiment equipment to show the interoperability of the MLR with the MEF-level command and control systems, which also connect into the Joint force," said Winters.
The Hawaii C2 node, which can operate in contested terrain, was comprised of a Multi-Function Air Operations Center (MAOC) and a Multi-Domain Operations Center (MDOC). These were plugged into an All-Domain Operations Center (ADOC) that was established in Okinawa by III MEF.
The MAOC's mission is to generate an integrated tactical picture of the operating environment in order to control aircraft and missiles, enable decision superiority, gain and maintain custody of adversary targets, hold those adversary targets at risk, and enable the engagement of targets in all domains as directed in support of Marine Corps, Naval, Joint, Ally and Partner forces.
The MDOC executes deliberate and dynamic kill chains via the fusion of command and control, intelligence and fires. The ADOC in Okinawa had a similar mission, but coordinated command and control, intelligence and fires at a higher echelon – at the Task Force-level.
This multi-echelon, all-domain C2 system was linked into every service and functional component command and control system in U.S. Indo-Pacific Command (USINDOPACOM). It was also linked into organic, Joint and interagency sensors, and intelligence and space/cyber elements. Together, these created a common intelligence picture and a common operating picture of the Indo-Pacific maritime environment, to include possible threats. These pictures inform decision-making and enable the Marines to synchronize organic, Joint, and/or interagency fires - both lethal and non-lethal - across air, sea, land, space and cyber to achieve specific, desired effects.
The ADOC/MDOC-led all-domain C2 system conducted six days of Joint and partner exercises inside the first island chain. A full mission debrief was given Feb. 7, 2023, to Adm. John Aquilino, commander, USINDOPACOM, Lt. Gen. William Jurney, commander, U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Pacific, and other senior leaders from each of the Hawaii-based component commands.
"As the multi-domain space grows, we wanted to demonstrate how the Marine Corps' traditional approach to Marine Air-Ground Task Force (MAGTF) operations – the 'single battle concept' – offers a good example for the rest of the Joint force. Once you get people out of their functional or service stovepipes and oriented on a single, integrated Joint battlespace, we can really start to create operational and tactical tempo as a Joint force. It's about combined arms, in multiple domains," said Winters.
The MAOC was linked into a MDOC, as well as organic, Joint, and interagency sensors, widely dispersed throughout the operating area. These included an AN/TPS-80 Ground/Air Task Oriented Radar (G/ATOR) S-band radar and a Composite Tracking Network, which integrates ground, surface, and airborne sensors. Together, these systems fed a common intelligence and operating picture of the maritime threat environment, stretching from the continental United States, through Hawaii, out to the first island chain.
Winters described his Marines' function this way. "Our job is to take all these Joint kinetic and non-kinetic Joint force shooters, integrate them via a fused, tactical picture containing both intelligence and tactical track data, and enhance the lethality at the tactical edge. We leveraged the existing relationships and technologies that Marine Air Control Groups and MIGs have with our Joint and partner forces to really integrate all their disparate domain-centric pictures, into an integrated, single-battle picture," Winters added.
This innovative approach to multi-domain operations is yet another fleet-led initiative to achieve the Marine Corps' Force Design 2030 plan. FD2030 calls for new ways of thinking and operating, especially in the Indo-Pacific theater, relying on smaller, agile units capable of sensing and making sense of potential adversary movements and actions, putting - and holding - those potential adversaries at risk, and redeploying before being held at risk themselves. This is a challenging task, especially given the vast distances over which forces may have to operate in the Indo-Pacific, but Marines have never been known to back down from a challenge.
The Marines’ ability to establish this expeditionary, all-domain integration node in contested terrain bolsters the Joint force and coalition partners, integrated deterrence, and the National Defense Strategy.
"It's really about all-domain, combined arms" said Winters. "You don’t have to own the thing to integrate the thing. MACG-38 doesn’t normally work with space and cyber people, but my goal is to deconflict and integrate our operations from theirs and sequence them in space, time and effect to have an out-sized impact on our adversary. This MDOC is the first time we've had space and cyber there and made a fires and effects plan with them. That's super powerful, and exactly what our combatant commander is looking for."