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Space And The MAGTF Commander

Space And The MAGTF Commander

 

CSC 1993

 

SUBJECT AREA - Strategic Issues

 

 

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

 

Title: Space and the MAGTF Commander

 

Author: Major James A. Haig, United States Marine Corps

 

Thesis: The Marine Corps must understand the capabilities of space based systems and

develop the knowledge and procedures necessary to exploit the tremendous benefits these

systems offer the MAGTF commander.

 

Background: ...From The Sea describes the way the Navy and Marine Corps will

operate in the future. The emphasis will be on the littoral areas of the world and on

regional vice global conflicts. Many times these services will be called upon to react to a

crisis situation that will not permit long, detailed planning. The process of information

gathering required to support these operations must become rapid. Space platforms offer

responsive assets to help the MAGTF commander in the areas of weather, surveillance,

targeting, mission rehearsal, battle damage assessment, navigation, and communications.

Each of these systems offers the MAGTF commander advantages he may employ to the

MAGTF's advantage. These systems may be classified as "force enhancement" assets. To

utilize these systems, the Marine Corps must develop the knowledge of the capabilities

and understand how to access these space based systems.

 

Recommendation: The Marine Corps should understand space based systems

capabilities and utilize these assets for force enhancement. MAGTF commanders must

understand the procedures necessary to receive the wealth of information available from

space based systems.

 

SPACE AND THE MAGTF COMMANDER

 

 

 

OUTLINE

 

Thesis: The Marine Corps must understand the capabilities of space based systems and

the advantages these systems offer the MAGTF commander. Space based systems will

become critical with the emphasis on littoral warfare and quick reaction to crisis situations

These systems are ideal for the rapid receipt and dissemination of informntion critical to

military operations.

 

I. Crisis response

a. The mission

b. The shortfalls in information

c. ...From The Sea

 

II. Space systems capabilities

a. Communications

b. Navigation

c. Surveillance

d. Indications and Warnings

e. Weather

f. Fire support coordination

 

III. Space control

a. Enemy exploitation

b. Protection

 

IV. System improvements

 

V. Mission accomplishment

 

SPACE AND THE MAGTF COMMANDER

 

by Major James A. Haig, United States Marine Corps

 

 

Colonel Smith, Commanding Officer of the 30th MEU from Camp Lejeune, North

 

Carolina, was awakened by his Operations Duty Officer (ODO) at 0330, 15 March 1995.

 

The Amphibious Task Force, of which the 30th MEU was a part, received a message

 

directing them to proceed to a designated point off the coast of Gabot. Gabat, located on

 

the southeastern coast of Africa, was a newly formed democracy. As such, Gabot was

 

receiving support, both political and economic, from the United States.

 

 

Colonel Smith discerned from his excited ODO that Zanian forces opposing the

 

democratically elected government of Gabot were closing on the capital city of Mumbat.

 

These forces, from the neigbboring country of Zan, had overrun border outposts of

 

Gabotian soldiers and were expected to reach the capital within two weeks. The

 

Government of Gabot requested assistance from the United Nations and received an

 

ambiguous reply that did not promise timely assistance. The government then requested

 

assistance from their new found friend, the United States. The President of the United

 

States responded by ordering the ATF to the area to demonstrate support to the Gobatian

 

government. This deployment also served to position forces to facilitate transition to

 

combat operations in support of Gabot should the President so decide.

 

 

The ATF received an Initiating Directive on 18 March that assigned the 30th MEU

 

three missions. These were to:

 

Assist the Government of Gabot in expelling Zanian forces from Gabot and in

 

restoring the internationally recognized borders of Gabot.

 

Conduct an evacuation of all non-essential Americans in the US Embassy in Gabot.

 

Protect American lives and property in Gabot.

 

The immediate problem facing Colonel Smith was the paucity of information

 

concerning Gabot. The country was located in a part of the world the United States had

 

paid little attention to until very recently. Gabot had formerly been ruled by a dictator and

 

the United States had not established any contact with this former regime. This situation

 

did not permit the United States to collect information on the area useful for future

 

military operations. Information on the people, weather, terrain, and general make-up of

 

the country was not readily available to Colonel Smith. His requirements for information

 

and intelligence far outweighed his ability to satisfy them.

 

 

The hypothetical situation described above is in keeping with the types of

 

operations the Navy and Marine Corps expect to encounter now and in the future.

 

...From the Sea, a Navy and Marine Corps White Paper, describes the services vision of

 

where Navy and Marine Corps operations will focus in the future. The White Paper

 

describes the strategy the Navy and Marine Corps will employ to support the National

 

Security Strategy. It also describes how the services will deal with the uncertainty the

 

United States faces in this new world of reduced global and increased regional threats.

 

The four pillars of this new strategy are: strategic deterrence and defense, forward

 

presence, crisis response, and reconstitution. The 30th MEU featured above was

 

participating in this strategy by way of their forward presence and crisis response.

 

 

While the Navy and Marine Corps are ideally suited to operate in this new strategic

 

environment, the demands for information, intelligence, and communications flexibility

 

dramatically increase. The prospect of conducting combat operations on short notice, in

 

an unfamiliar country, and with little on-hand intelligence is a daunting one at best. Space

 

based systems and platforms offer a solution to many, if not all, of the problems that can

 

arise from a situation such as this. The Marine Corps must understand the capabilities of

 

space based systems and develop the knowledge and procedures necessary to exploit the

 

tremendous benefits these systems offer the MAGTF commander. This expertise is an

 

absolute requirement for any Marine Air Ground Task Force (MAGTF) commander who

 

will be operating in support of the National Security Strategy.

 

 

...From the Sea, in stressing the importance of space, states, "Our surveillance

 

efforts will continue to emphasize exploitation of space and electronic warfare systems to

 

provide commanders with immediate information." It goes on to say, "Particular

 

emphasis will be placed on the ability to collect intelligence through covert surveillance

 

early in crisis." (6:8, 9) The Navy and Marine Corps clearly understand the implications of

 

space and the advantages its use offers. Space systems already exist to support operations

 

at the three levels of war; strategic, operational, and tactical. The Naval services are

 

committed to exploiting these assets to their, and the country's, benefit.

 

 

Space based systems, both military and civilian, can provide a plethora of services

 

to the military. These include: communications, navigation, indications and warnings (I

 

&W), near real time weather updates, mission rehearsal, target selection, battle damage

 

assessment (BDA), coordination of forces, and fire support coordination. The services

 

most often associated with military use, and most valuable in the Gabot scenerio, are in the

 

areas of communications, navigation (to include mapping), surveillance, I & W, weather

 

updates, and target selection.

 

 

Although Desert Shield and Desert Storm offer the most recent and visible

 

example of how space assets support military operations, other examples are:

 

The Libyan raid in 1986

 

Operation Earnest Will (Persian Gulf) in 1988

 

Operation Just Cause (Panama) in 1989

 

These operations allowed the military to evaluate space systems in limited operations and

 

provided the opportunity to improve them where necessary.

 

 

The most immediate benefit of space based systems felt by the commander is in the

 

area of communications. The Defense Satellite Communications System provides

 

worldwide communications coverage for military use. This allows a MAGTF commander

 

to communicate anywhere he needs to to fill his informational requirements. However,

 

the use of satellite communications (SATCOM) depends on priorities. A problem

 

identified during Desert Shield/Storm was the lack of raw capacity to meet the

 

communications requirement at all levels. (8:22) Over 90% of the communications

 

received in Saudi Arabia was through satellite communications. The established priorities

 

allowed the higher headquarters the use of SATCOM, but the advantages of SATCOM

 

were not felt by tactical units. What resulted was the ability to communicate through

 

SATCOM at the Marine Expeditionary Force (MEF) level and above with the

 

communications below that level not able to enjoy the advantages of SATCOM.

 

 

A possible solution lies in the Military Strategic and Tactical Relay (MILSTAR 2)

 

communications satellite. It has approximately 100 times the capacity as present systems

 

and could be accessed by tactical units. The largest improvement to this system is the

 

automated switchboard and its ability to service mobile forces. (4:63) This system would

 

give commanders at all levels access to reliable communications virtually anywhere in the

 

world. The MILSTAR 2 is capable of data transmission as well as voice communications.

 

 

Although all may be rosy on the technological front, the same is not true on the

 

budget side. When, on 2 Feb 93, Secretary of Defense Lees Aspin directed the Air Force

 

to cut 2.8 billion dollars from their 1994 budget, they chose the MILSTAR project to ax.

 

The Air Force made this decision in part because they do not plan extensive use of

 

MILSTAR 2. This decision brought an immediate response from both the Army and

 

Navy. These services planned extensive use of the MISTAR 2 system in present and

 

future operations. While a final decision has not been reached, this underscores the

 

problems inherent when one service, the Air Force, decides what space systems to buy or

 

not to buy. (7:3,20)

 

 

Space systems have dramatically improved the ability of the military to navigate

 

accurately on land, at sea, and in the air. Desert Shield and Desert Storm saw a

 

tremendous increase in the use of this space based technology. Virtually every size unit

 

involved in the operations used the Global Positioning System (GPS) either directly or

 

indirectly. The GPS system is a constellation of satellites that provide precise navigation,

 

positioning, and timing signals to a passive receiver. Although most military personnel are

 

able navigators, the featureless desert presented problems in navigation that were difficult

 

to overcome without assistance. The GPS system was relatively new at the time of Desert

 

Shield and the distribution of receivers was limited. Once the importance and value of the

 

system were recognized, receivers were purchased (commercial as well as military

 

variants) and widely distributed. GPS was, in the words of Major General Binford Peay,

 

Commanding General 101st Airborne Division, "the most popular new piece of equipment

 

in the desert." (5:50,51)

 

 

The importance of GPS cannot be overemphasized. The system immediately

 

places each of the users on common survey and on a common time. It can tell a unit

 

where it is down to an accuracy of a few meters. GPS can be used to position artillery,

 

mortars, unit boundaries, minefields, and patrols. It aided logistics units in delivering

 

supplies, ammunition, fuel, and water to frontline units. Receivers onboard aircraft gave

 

pilots precise locations for targets and enemy anti-aircraft positions. GPS vastly increased

 

the ability of units to navigate both in the daytime and at night. During Desert Storm the

 

GPS changed from a "nice to have" to a "must have" capability.

 

 

Included under the navigation umbrella of space based capability is the ability of

 

multispectral imagery satellites to prepare or update maps. These satellites are able to

 

image specific areas of the earth and then transmit those images to ground stations. Those

 

images can then be used to update maps, analyze landing zones or possible amphibious

 

landing sites, but also for mission rehearsal. During Desert Storm, many pilots rehearsed

 

their missions on computers using images provided by the multispectral imagery satellites.

 

The pilots were thus able to "fly" their missions on computers that showed what the

 

terrain looked like going to and from the intended target area. (5:52)

 

 

The possible uses for the GPS system are still undergoing development. At the

 

tactical level, the Field Artillery is experimenting with GPS systems that will greatly affect

 

their ability to deliver accurate and timely fire support. These systems include the Gun

 

Laying Positioning System (GLPS), the Azimuth Determining System (ADS), and the

 

GPS fuze.

 

 

The GLPS will determine azimuth, deflection angle, position, and elevation for all

 

howitzers with an external panoramic sight. This system could eliminate the requirement

 

for survey support within the artillery battalion. The ADS will utilize the GPS

 

constellation to provide a check for the azimuth determining system onboard the Multiple

 

Launch Rocket System (MLRS). The GPS fuze will use GPS information to accurately

 

track trajectory positions and flight path of a projectile. This information is transmitted

 

back to the firing unit to allow for accurate adjustment of rounds onto a target. (1:26,27)

 

The Air Force is experimenting with the use of GPS systems to reduce the cost,

 

and increase the accuracy, of smart bombs. The Air Force is using relatively low cost

 

GPS receivers to update and control small computers in the bombs that enables the bombs

 

to strike within 16 meters of the intended target. Once the GPS system is improved,

 

accuracy could increase to within three meters of the intended impact point. While it may

 

seem wasteful to attach a GPS receiver to a bomb, the TV cameras, infra-red detectors,

 

and high-accuracy millimeter-wave radar they would replace are many times more costly.

 

The Army has shown interest in using this technology in their Army Tactical Missile

 

System (ATACMS). (9:1,29)

 

 

Surveillance is an area of space capabilities that is of particular interest to military

 

planners and operators. In the Gabot scenario, the products provided by this system

 

would greatly assist the MAGTF commander in planning his operations. The photos from

 

these platforms are good enough to allow detailed military planning. Some of the

 

satellites used for surveillance are civilian and not military use only. Examples of what

 

they are capable of can be found in magazines like National Geographic on a routine

 

basis. The exact capabilities and operations of the military satellites are classified. This

 

space based system allows the commander to conduct his preparation of the battlefield

 

with near real time data regardless of his location. As witnessed by the public during

 

Desert Storm, this system can also be utilized to conduct target planning and damage

 

assessment.

 

 

The ability of space based systems to provide indications and warning (I & W) was

 

thoroughly demonstrated during Desert Storm. The most visible example of this capability

 

was the ability of the Defense Support Program missile-warning satellite to detect and

 

track the exhaust heat generated by ballistic missiles. While this capability existed in Saudi

 

Arabia in August 1990, it took several months for to refine procedures which transmitted

 

the launch information to Patriot missile batteries that destroyed the ballistic missiles.

 

(5:50) The Patriot missile batteries were the final recipients of launch information. This

 

gave them the time necessary to prepare and orient their systems to intercept the Iraqis

 

Scud missiles. This capability also provided detection of Scud launch sites and their

 

ultimate attack by coalition forces.

 

 

In military operations success is greatly dependent on weather. The ability to

 

predict weather in advance has depended a great deal on "guess-work" in the past. Space

 

based weather satellites have taken much of the guess-work out of the weather prediction

 

business. The military uses data from Defense Meteorological Satellite Program (DMSP)

 

satellites as well as civil weather satellites to provide weather informtion to the military.

 

(5:51) During Desert Storm, data from these systems was used to plan and execute

 

operations. Information from these weather satellites was also used to determine precise

 

wind direction. This information would have been used to predict the spread of chemical

 

agents had Iraq employed them. The ability to accurately predict weather is a tremendous

 

advantage to military planners. No other asset is as precise and accurate in this area as the

 

weather satellites of the DMSP and the civil assets available to the military.

 

 

As with space based communications, the ability of tactical units to directly receive

 

weather information is an issue. The receiving stations for weather data are large and

 

cumbersome and suited to larger, less mobile units. Hence, the user at the tactical unit

 

does not always receive timely information. To address this inequity, smaller, mobile

 

receiving stations are being developed for use by tactical units. This would give the

 

"trigger pullers" instant access to valuable weather information that could have an adverse

 

impact on combat plans. (3:24)

 

A photograph of the "road to ruin" serves to demonstrate the value of space

 

systems in the targeting process. Space systems assisted in discovering the retreat of Iraqi

 

forces from Kuwait City by way of this road. Once the retreat was discovered, planners

 

were able to quickly assign assets to attack this target rich environment. Space assets

 

were utilized to locate targets by way of photographs, infra-red scanners, and rear to

 

name a few. Not only do these space systems provide accurate location, they do it quickly

 

and in a format usable to planners.

 

 

 

Space systems are also valuable in the fire support coordination arena. One of the

 

most useful tools is the GPS. By keeping accurate locations on all of a MAGTF's

 

elements, the chance of delivering ordnance on friendly troops greatly diminishes. Troops

 

on the ground, at sea, and in the air are able to accurately track friendly units and their

 

positions. Although the incidents of fratricide during Desert Storm might seem to

 

discount this capability, adherence to proper procedures might have keep those incidents

 

from happening.

 

 

 

The capabilities of space based systems to assist the MAGTF commander are

 

numerous. However, these systems are vulnerable to interference from hostile forces.

 

During Desert Shield and Storm the coalition enjoyed the advantage of fighting a country

 

unable to influence space platforms. In fact, the ability of the Iraqi military to exploit

 

space systems was negligible. If we face an opponent in the future who has space

 

capabilities, the story could be much different from the one that unfolded from August

 

1990 to February 1991.

 

 

 

Navy and Marine tactics seek to exploit advantages of over the horizon launches

 

during amphibious assaults. The reason for this type of launch is to achieve tactical

 

surprise. The assault force then gains and, hopefully, maintains the initiative and can

 

defeat the enemy. That is a viable plan for fighting an enemy who has no access to space

 

based products. The problem is those military and civilian "spies in the sky" satellites can

 

produce photographs that are sold to the highest bidder. Infra-red sensors provide

 

information that is likewise for sale. This would seem to limit the value of the over the

 

horizon concept as presently outlined. (2:140) The point is, countries other than the

 

United States are capable of orbiting space platforms as capable as the systems we now

 

use.

 

 

These concerns mean that we must actively seek to protect our space platforms

 

and destroy, or degrade, our opponents. Protection of our assets is of great concern.

 

This aspect of space operations is commonly called "space control." One aspect of the

 

Strategic Defense Initiative was to develop weapons to destroy opposing force's space

 

platforms. The United States is not alone in attempting to develop these types of

 

weapons. The use of space based systems has become so important and integrated into

 

military operations that the United States must control space if we are to continue to

 

exploit it. Protection of our space based systems and destruction of an enemy's space

 

systems must become a priority. If not, we will find ourselves in a sorry state should we

 

fight an enemy with the capability to interfere with our space assets.

 

 

In the opening scenario, Colonel Smith seemed to be in a bind regarding

 

information, intelligence, mapping, and communications. Assuming that Zan is unable to

 

influence the Colonel's ability to access information gained through space based assets, his

 

ability to satisfy his requirement for information is greatly increased with space based

 

systems. Using these systems, the MAGTF can communicate, navigate, receive near real

 

time weather updates, map areas of concern, select targets, and rehearse missions without

 

ever leaving MAGTF shipping. These capabilities exist today and are in use worldwide by

 

United States military forces.

 

While the capabilities of space based platforms are impressive, improvements need

 

to be made. Communications satellites are unable to handle sufficient quantities of nets to

 

support operators at the tactical level. A responsive launch system to replace destroyed or

 

broken satellites does not exist. The United States needs a space based wide area

 

surveillance system to better track naval and air movements by potential adversaries.

 

Systems to protect United States space assets and destroy enemy space systems must be

 

developed if we are to maintain control of the "high ground," space.

 

 

Space based systems, and the technologies they employ, offer a tremendous

 

advantage to the commander who understands and can employ their capabilities. Our

 

Colonel Smith was able to employ the advantages these space systems provide because he

 

had the training and knowledge required to gain access to them. He made the

 

employment of these assets a part of his units training program and when the time came to

 

use them for real, the 30th MEU was ready. The Marine Corps must dedicate the time,

 

people, and training to utilize the benefits space technology offers in combat operations.

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY

 

1. Baily, Dale C. "Space Exploitation Demonstration Program." Field Artillery

October 1992: 26,27.

 

2. Collins, John M. Military Space Forces. Washington D. C.: PERGAMON-

BRASSEY'S International Defense Publishers, Inc. 1989: 140.

 

3. Defense 92 October/November. Based on excerpt of the 1992 "Joint Military Net

Assessment."

 

4. Dornhiem, Michael A. "Milstar 2 Brings New Program Role." Aviation Week and

Space Technology November 16, 1992: 63.

 

5. Dougherty, VADM William A. "Storm from Space." Proceedings August 1992:

50-52.

 

6. ...From The Sea Navy and Marine Corps White Paper 1992.

 

7. Kiernan, Vincent and Neil Munro. "Services Battle Over Milstar's Fate." Space

News February 15-21 1993: 3,20.

 

8. McPeak, General Merril. "Newsmaker Forum." Space News February 15-21

1993: 22.

 

9. Munro, Neil. "GPS Drops Cost, Boosts Accuracy of Smart Bombs." Defense News

March 22-28 1993:1,29.

 



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