IT warfare test starts

The Marine Corps was expected to kick off this past weekend the last of a series of experiments to test cutting-edge information technologies and new methods of conducting military operations in cities.

Limited Objective Experiment 3 (LOE 3) is part of the Urban Warrior series of tests, which the Marines have conducted over the past year to develop new technologies and concepts for fighting in densely populated urban areas— environments that the Marines believe will be the most common place for future battles.

LOE 3 is the last limited experimental exercise to take place before the Marines hold a larger exercise in September, which is a precursor to a major Advanced Warfighting Experiment in urban warfare scheduled for March 1999.

Urban Warrior is the second phase of the Marines' five-year experimentation plan to test new high-tech warfighting equipment and tactics such as unmanned aerial reconnaissance vehicles, interactive command and control systems and handheld tactical data terminals.

In the first phase, called Hunter Warrior, the Marines tested how a small, highly mobile force armed with advanced information and data communications technologies fared against a much larger, more lethal force equipped with heavy armor. Lessons from both Hunter Warrior and Urban Warrior will guide planners for the last phase of the initial five-year experimentation plan, Capable Warrior, which will test the new tactics and technologies in a large-scale field exercise.

The Marines are testing new technologies and procedures because demographic trends make urban warfare "a near certainty," according Marine Corps documents on Urban Warrior. "By 2020...[about] 70 percent of the world's population will live in cities," most of which will be located within a short distance from the coastal regions of the world, according to Urban Warrior documents.

The Marines will use LOE 3 to test intelligence systems, according to Lt. Col. Carl R. Bott, director of the Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Division of the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory.

For the first time, Marines will use the Global Broadcast Service (GBS), which is a high-speed communications backbone that relies on satellites and mobile receiving antennas to provide military commanders remote access to planning, intelligence and weather data. Using the GBS, the Marines will be able to access imagery and digital maps that reside in national intelligence agency databases, Bott said.

One of the principal uses of GBS during LOE 3 will be to conduct an experiment using the Tailored Topographic and Imagery Manipulation, Exploitation and Dissemination (T-TIMED) system, according to Michael H. Decker, the Marine Corps' deputy assistant chief of staff for intelligence. T-TIMED will provide "a low data-rate path [that] will allow the Marine Air-Ground Task Force to query national and service databases and then [receive] the desired files via the higher data rate offered by GBS," Decker said.

Another major challenge facing the Marines at LOE 3 is developing new methodologies for managing information overload, according to Maj. Vince Stewart, an exercise planner with the Warfighting Lab's Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force-Experimental.

"The real challenge in managing the vast amount of information is to try to figure out what information we have, who needs it and in what format do they need to receive it," Stewart said. In addition, the Marines hope to create command information profiles covering all levels from task force commander to squad leader, whereby they can push pertinent information to these individuals or store it in data repositories from which the tactical leaders can access it.

To help see through the fog of urban warfare— the confusion that frequently occurs when soldiers lose their sense of what is happening on the battlefield, leading to poor decisions and sometimes death— the Marines also will experiment with a visualization application called Top Scene, a tool normally used in aviation, Stewart said. The Marines will try to apply the advantages of Top Scene to the infantry as they operate in the 3-D urban environment.

"We're probably going a little farther than we have in the past," Stewart said. For example, the Corps will be looking at ways to merge different scale imagery to do targeting and reactive engagement, Stewart said.

The experiments undertaken at LOE 3 are scheduled to be wrapped up July 21 and have focused on creating a common tactical picture. However, Decker said the technology is only part of the picture.

"I don't want to lead you to believe LOE 3 is only a science fair," Decker said. "There are still a lot of boots on the ground."

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