Strength Design 2030 (FD2030) describes specific shortcomings of the current Fleet Marine Force and offers solutions to correct those shortcomings. One of the essential requirements is the distribution of Intelligence, Reconnaissance and Surveillance (ISR) capabilities. To meet these requirements, the Marine Corps must upgrade the current Enterprise Level Intelligence Cell (CLIC) build by adding or improving Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS), signals intelligence/electronic warfare (SI/EW) and ground sensors at every CLICK. , as well as providing additional leaders to properly integrate and utilize these strengths at the enterprise level.
Unmanned aerial systems
UAS will be critical to the success of any distributed unit. Longer range and endurance UAS (Group 2 UAS), rather than smaller systems, provide company commanders with well-balanced platforms without overly heavy logistical footprints. Platoons and squads require smaller platforms that prioritize rapid deployment capability over range and endurance; quadcopters are well suited for this role. As the Marine Corps searches for the right system, there are capabilities that any enterprise-level UAS should have: day and night sensors; target acquisition with the equivalent target location error of a manned aircraft; radio communication relay; weather resistance; minimal training to operate; and reliable launch capability.
Group 2 UAS should include SI/EW payloads and all UAS should be enhanced with machine learning software that can identify, classify and track targets faster than a human operator. In addition to the Group 2 system, an MRZR type light vehicle should be included to power the longer range antennas and recharge the battery, as well as to facilitate the operator’s ability to follow and sustain the maneuver. Finally, it must be possible to pull the full motion video feed from the UAS through a universal standard handheld compatible with manned and unmanned aircraft sensors in all branches of service.
FD2030 provides each company with a signals intelligence/electronic warfare (SI/EW) support team, which will fill a critical collection gap at the company level, but, as with UAS, the Marine Corps will need to ensure that the correct set of equipment is acquired. The most efficient way for a company to collect signals would be a system of small, lightweight sensors attached to the grunt packs. The SI/EW Marine would then receive and consolidate the data, including lines of bearing (LOB) of signals of interest. The more SI/EW sensors can be distributed within a platoon or patrol, the greater the fidelity that can be achieved through collection. Additionally, by attaching the sensors to infantry Marines, SI/EW Marines can focus on processing and exploiting LOBs to provide actionable intelligence.
For the future operating environment, SI/EW equipment should also be enabled by machine learning to track and classify signals and acquire LOBs for frequency hopping communication sets. A communications suite to access national and theater reporting should also be included with the SI/EW team. Finally, SI/EW Marines should be equipped with an electronic attack platform capable of disrupting tactical communications and conducting counter-UAS. An organic SI/EW support team with these capabilities would allow a rifle company to effectively fight in the electromagnetic spectrum.
Ground sensors must also be provided to the CLIC. Absent from the proposed FD2030 Company, Ground Sensor Platoons currently reside in Intelligence Battalions to provide Sensor Placement Teams (SET) for unit deployment. These teams provide quality equipment that can enhance both collections and force protection. Through persistent, low-risk surveillance of a target area, ground sensors provide indications and warnings of adversary activity and signals for other collection assets. The SETs are also equipped with high power optics usable from an MRZR or disassembled. This capability can help fill the human surveillance void created by FD2030’s planned divestment of scout snipers. Additionally, SETs are trained to use fast radar, which should be able to provide an origin point for ground fires and detect enemy UAS for the future force. An organic SET with these capabilities would greatly increase a company commander’s situational awareness and ability to operate independently.
Integration and Employment
Equipment and operators, however, are only half the battle. Successful integration and employment is where commanders will make their money. Easier said than done, especially when it comes to detailed mission planning and adding large amounts of new data into a commander’s decision-making cycle. A significant hurdle to overcome is the analytics needed to turn the collection of all these new sensors into usable intelligence. Even with current CLICK support, there are too many entries to handle. No Marine can receive all of this data and effectively process it in real time to provide the right intelligence to his commander. To get the most out of new SRI assets at the corporate level, additional leadership and analytical capacity are needed.
Presumably the “enhanced Intel cell” is the intended solution to this problem. The composition of the cell remains an important question. Ground Intelligence Officers are the perfect fit, as they have the right intelligence, gunnery, and maneuver expertise to properly support a rifle company commander.
Finding the right posting for ground intelligence officers has been a difficult matter. Lucky ground intelligence lieutenants are expected to go straight from school to infantry battalions, where they use what they learn in their MOS training as an assistant battalion intelligence officer or gunnery platoon commander elite. However, many ground intelligence officers are instead sent to fill positions in logistics or other undeployed units where their training and skills are largely underutilized. The creation of new housing for Ground Intelligence Officers as Officers in Charge of CLIC addresses both the lack of future CLIC leaders and the problem of the proper employment of Ground Intelligence Officers. Other authors came to the same conclusion and came up with a similar concept to classify them.
If this solution were to be implemented, each of the three rifle companies in a battalion would evaluate a ground intelligence lieutenant. Since FD2030 plans to reduce the Marine Corps to 21 active duty infantry battalions, a total of 63 ground intelligence lieutenants would be required to fill all CLIC OIC positions. Currently, there are over 100 active duty first and second ground intelligence lieutenants.1 The Marine Corps could cut nearly 40% of these officers and continue to meet ground intelligence officer staffing requirements for future infantry battalions.
This reinforced CLIC can follow the same pattern as the current weapons platoon that is organic to a marine company. Weapons platoon commanders employ machine gun, mortar and assault sections in support of a maneuver scheme. Similarly, collection sections (UAS, SI/EW, SET) may be assigned an appropriate command relationship and tasks based on mission analysis. Small Unit Leaders – Collections Section Chiefs – will then lead mission planning for their Marines and equipment while the CLIC OIC ensures that the company collection plan is interwoven with higher headquarters. .
During enterprise mission planning, the upgraded CLIC will be capable of more robust support than currently provided. Relying on a battalion or higher headquarters to provide standard intelligence planning products is not a viable option for units performing distributed operations. A CLIC led by a ground intelligence officer can fill this gap. With the combined experience of infantry and intelligence, the analysis of a CLIC led by a ground intelligence officer will provide a significant increase in basic understanding of a distributed enterprise of the battlespace and adversary while allowing the commander to focus on other aspects of combat planning and preparation.
Once planning is complete and an operation begins, the rest of the intelligence cycle can be executed in real time. The section’s non-commissioned officers will use their sensors and carry out the first level of analysis of the collection. The CLIC OIC then compiles these data points and, using their understanding of infantry tactics, transforms this information into actionable intelligence for the company commander. Now only relevant and actionable information is released to the business and the task of processing raw collection has been taken off the skipper’s plate. Additionally, CLIC OICs can easily be integrated into corporate fire support teams to support dynamic targeting. This concept of employment will generate significantly increased lethality for a rifle company by improving its ability to observe, orient, decide and act on the modern battlefield.
The most effective way for future infantry battalions and companies to achieve this end state is to enhance the CLIC concept. By adding UAS, SI/EW support teams, SETs and leaders, the new CLIC would be a big step towards achieving the FD2030 goals and giving rifle manufacturers a new competitive edge.