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Space And The MAGTF Commander

Space And The MAGTF Commander


CSC 1993


SUBJECT AREA - Strategic Issues





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.








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




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





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





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.




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



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:



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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