The Marines use cheap commercial technology to hide their command posts from view.

The Marines use cheap commercial technology to hide their command posts from view.


Marines deployed to Asia during recent exercises learned to use local cellphone networks and other commercial technology to hide their command posts, part of an internal effort by the service to adapt to the modern battlefield.

The Marines’ command center, whose distinctive radio transmissions could give away their location to an enemy, was able to conduct most of its missions through “host nation Wi-Fi,” Col. Thomas Siverts said at a press conference Friday.

Siverts is leading Marine Rotational Force Southeast Asia, which is conducting training in the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia from September through December and is on its second-ever deployment.

The force is modeled after other long-established Marine Corps rotational forces and is focused on security cooperation with U.S. allies and partners, but can also respond to regional crises.

Siverts said using the host nation’s WiFi allowed the Marines to “blend into the environment.” Marines brought their cellphones with them to deployments and accessed the mobile network with local SIM cards, making the network less noticeable. “We’re not going to be detected,” Siverts said.

Communicating in such a way requires encryption and small form factor communications, he added, referring to communications platforms that are physically much smaller than those typically used.

Siverts said another tool in the Marine Corps’ arsenal is civilian radar that is indistinguishable from civilian fishing boats.

At the same time, the Marines are trying to balance the trade-off between making their command posts invisible to enemy intelligence-gathering systems and being effective, added Col. Brendan Sullivan, commander of Marine Patrol Force Darwin, which deployed at the same time as Siverts’ patrol.

“we [minimum] “You have to have the capabilities you need to stay relevant,” Sullivan said, “and you have to do the signature management part to stay relevant for any meaningful period of time.”

The Marine Corps’ focus on improving command post survivability comes as the Marines and Army move away from counterterrorism operations and toward a modern battlefield where America’s enemies are equipped with precision missiles and satellite communications.

One of the Army’s primary goals is to improve command posts’ ability to evade enemy attack, which includes making them smaller and easier to relocate, as well as reducing their electromagnetic profile.

“If we go around the battlefield with big operations centers that are difficult to set up and often supported by contractors, we’re going to be defeated,” Army Chief of Staff Gen. Randy George said in October at the Association of the U.S. Army’s annual meeting.

“Russians learn this lesson many times a day. [in Ukraine]And we will not learn through bitter experience.”

Ukrainian forces frequently target Russian command centers, logistics bases and troop concentrations with U.S.-supplied long-range missiles.

Even headquarters far from the front lines, such as in the occupied Crimea, are far from safe: on Thursday, Ukrainian forces reported an attack on a Russian military headquarters in Sevastopol.





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