Last year, the U.S. Marine Corps fielded a lightweight, tablet-based system that improves situational awareness on the battlefield. This year, Marines will see an enhanced version of the technology.
The U.S. Marine Air-Ground Task Force Common Handheld enables dismounted Marines to leverage commercial smart devices to plot and share locations. The tablet’s software includes a moving map with friendly and enemy positions, giving Marines at all levels a better overall view of the battlespace.
“MCH includes applications specific to the needs of a Marine at the tactical edge,” said Maj. R. Travis Beeson, Tactical Applications and Services Team Lead at Marine Corps Systems Command. “The system increases digital lethality while decreasing the chance for friendly fire.”
MCH allows Marines to relay messages and locations to other users in a manner similar to text messaging. The system’s capabilities augment previous methods of radio contact, allowing quieter and more efficient long-distance communication.
“Commanders down to the squad level will be better equipped with a lightweight tablet that grants them better situational awareness via a moving map with both friendly and enemy positions.”
Maj. R. Travis Beeson, Marine Corps Systems Command Tactical Applications and Services Team Lead
“By employing MCH, location errors due to misreading a paper map will be reduced,” said Maj. Justin King, MCSC’s project officer for MCH.
Updated system increases efficiency
MCSC recently rebuilt the system’s communication engine to increase interoperability.
The upgraded MCH enables Marines to communicate with one another through several additional communication systems, including the Advanced Field Artillery Tactical Data System, the Command and Control Personal Computer and the Army’s Joint Battle Command-Platform.
The newer system has lower data bandwidth requirements—a constrained resource on the battlefield— and uses a lower percentage of the available network when compared with the previous version of the technology.
“Reducing bandwidth frees up space for other tactical uses,” said King. “It also allows for additional users on the network without clogging it.”
In December 2019, MCSC fielded the upgraded version of MCH to infantry Marines aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, and will continue fielding to other infantry units throughout the year. The program office plans to field to the Reserves in fiscal year 2021.
Marine feedback on the MCH has been overwhelmingly positive, said Beeson. He noted how those who have received the system emphasize its benefits, while Marines still awaiting the technology are excited for its arrival.
“The units are constantly asking when they will receive theirs,” said Beeson. “And others have asked when they will receive more. The feedback has been great, but the MCH team recognizes that our work isn’t complete and will continue to develop and field new capabilities.”
Both Beeson and King expressed excitement over the benefits of MCH and its ability in helping Marines better accomplish their missions. The system is an efficient way to communicate with one another without relying on voice communication.
“Commanders down to the squad level will be better equipped with a lightweight tablet that grants them better situational awareness via a moving map with both friendly and enemy positions,” said Beeson. “That will ultimately help them on the battlefield.”