Marine Corps News Release
Release #: 567
Division of Public Affairs, Headquarters, United States Marine Corps, Washington, DC 20380-1775
Commercial: (703) 614-7678/9 DSN: 224-7678/9 FAX: (703) 697-5362

Date: 08/22/97
Story by By Sgt. Chris W. Cox


MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO, Va. -- In the largest experiment to date by the newly-renamed Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory here, ways were explored that would increase the area of influence and combat effectiveness of Marine units.

The Hunter Warrior Advanced Warfighting Experiment, which was conducted in March at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, Twentynine Palms, Calif., took a look at enhancing Marine units' effectiveness by utilizing a combination of experimental equipment and new warfighting tactics and techniques.

After months of analysis by the Marine Corps Combat Development Command and the Center for Naval Analyses, a summary of findings was released on Aug. 1 during a brief to Maj. Gen. John E. Rhodes, deputy commanding general of MCCDC.

Hunter Warrior included three phases and two focused experiments, and concentrated on several different areas over the course of its 12-days.

In the first phase, the focus was on reconnaissance, surveillance, shaping, and deception operations by both the Experimental Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force and the operating aggressor force (reinforced elements of the 7th Marine Regiment, a mechanized regiment based at Twentynine Palms.)

Phase II studied targeting for initial engagements by air, and long-range indirect fire missions.

Phase III included a major night movement by the operating force, additional targeting for the SPMAGTF(X), and culminated with a mobile raid on the opposing force.

The two focused experiments included in Hunter Warrior concentrated on the abilities of small teams to discriminate between military and non-combatant targets, their ability to survive against dismounted infantry, and examined what goes on during an attacking operational maneuver element.

In order to make the experiment more like a real "over-the-horizon" operation, the bulk of the SPMAGTF(X) was based at MCB Camp Pendleton, Calif., nearly 150 miles away.

The Bottom Line

Analyses of Hunter Warrior found that the Marine Corps can significantly extend the area of influence of a modest forward afloat expeditionary force and significantly increase its effectiveness within that area of influence,"

The MCWL set out to test a concept -- whether the Marine Corps could provide a forward afloat force with the capability to have an operational effect on a larger, capable foe. Hunter Warrior proved that it can be done, but not by using new technology alone.

By combining new concepts and technologies with tactics, techniques, and procedures, it was found that "a forward afloat expeditionary force and a Naval expeditionary task force could attack and significantly reduce the combat power of a capable, reinforced, regiment-sized mechanized opposing force." This differs from Operations Desert Shield/Storm where amphibious forces harassed and kept Iraqi divisions occupied, but did not attack them.


During Phase I of Hunter Warrior, the emphasis was on detecting targets. The operating force tried to make this difficult by breaking into small platoon- or lesser-sized units and creating an "anthill" effect on the battlefield rather than a few, huge mechanized formations.

In spite of this, SPMAGTF(X) successfully employed multiple long-range contact patrols and unmanned aerial vehicles, in addition to other
means of detection and was always between 36 and 74 percent accurate during the general engagement phases (Phases II and III), when compared to the actual "ground truth" after the fact.

One unexpected result that came from this portion was the "harassing" effect that the multiple-sensing capabilities had on the operating force. After action reports stated that there was a "fish-bowl" effect -- a feeling of always being watched -- in addition to having UAV fly-overs disrupt planning sessions. OpFor learned early on that they would be hit within two hours after a fly-over and started moving to avoid them.


Forward afloat forces do not have the assets to shoot everything; fire management is important in shaping the battlefield.

Most of the targets that were tracked and fired upon by the SPMAGTF(X) were hit 92 percent of the time, although not always on the first shot. Some of the lessons learned were:

-- Precise target locations needs to be matched with precision weapons.

-- Hitting long-range moving targets is not easy.

-- Aiming in after the first "ballpark" shot is the most accurate way; however, the first shot costs money, too. Initial precision is important.

Long Range Contact Patrols

One of the greatest detection devices SPMAGTF(X) had was the LRCP -- basically Marine reconnaissance and targeting teams made up of basic Marine rifle squads. The biggest concern, however, was that they would have a low survivability rate if they were detected by the OpFor. Despite these fears, only one out of 28 was discovered and attacked. During a focused experiment, the aggressor force was told the location of the LRCPs and still found none.

The patrols were formed from a regular battalion, not one that was hand-picked or otherwise "gold-plated." This reinforces the theory that infantry units, enabled by technologies and training, can successfully perform the LRCP mission.

One drawback for the LRCPs, however, was their performance at night. Most of their sightings occurred during daylight hours. The only night detection capability they had beyond roughly 1,000 meters was sound, and their targeting capability was essentially gone after sunset.
The Lab plans to pursue and improve on the LRCP concept.

Data and Voice

During Hunter Warrior, digital data transmission in the form of cargo pocket-sized mini-computers was introduced to units that were accustomed to operating almost exclusively by voice.

The Newton-Ericcson/ Leatherneck System allowed Marines to call for naval gunfire, mortars, artillery, and close air-support; tapped into the Global Positioning System for navigation; and provided alert statuses, reports, and free-text messages. Additionally, it was not limited to a 12-mile limit like other equipment currently in use.

In after-the-fact comparisons between data and voice, data was found most useful for disseminating:

-- Pre-defined information (position reports)

-- Routine information (status reports)

-- Numerical data (target coordinates)

-- Rapid (burst) transmission of high-volume information

Voice, on the other hand, was found most useful for:

-- Communicating on the move (it is hard to type on the move)

-- High-tempo operations (it takes longer to compose data messages than speak)

-- Personal communications (e.g., hearing the stress in a subordinate's voice)

Operational Maneuvering Element

In war, we try to present a dilemma to the enemy, forcing him to disperse and become vulnerable to direct action by maneuvering forces, or to mass and become vulnerable to indirect fire.

The SPMAGTF(X) was built from assets normally available to Marine expeditionary units with the addition of mobile infantry platoons. It was a light, motorized force. The aggressors knew that, and were correct in believing that such a light force would not be effective against evenly dispersed mechanized units.

The two lessons learned from this were:

-- In order to present the combat dilemma to the enemy, the maneuvering force must pose a credible threat (OpFor forces never felt compelled to mass, even when the OME came ashore).

-- The OME must be effective and able to survive in a direct fire battle until additional fires can be brought to bear.

Enhanced Combat Operation Center

The Combat Operation Center is the nerve center of the battlefield where all friendly and enemy information is sent to be compared, contrasted, and disseminated.

During Hunter Warrior, the ECOC was organized differently than a traditional COC in that it was organized around combat operations rather than being layered into "shops" (administration, intelligence, etc.) The ECOC also had the capacity to use national and joint intelligence gathering assets, such as satellites, to paint a more complete picture of the battlefield. This information, coupled with reports from other assets like LRCPs and UAVs, substantially cut the time needed to verify, evaluate, and disseminate information.


The important point to take away is that the overall effect gained from Hunter Warrior was not achieved by simply adding technology enhancements to regular forces. The experiment's conclusions were reached through a combination of enhancements:

-- Tactics, techniques and procedures

-- Organizational changes

-- Training

-- Technologies

The results from Hunter Warrior will be incorporated into the next Marine Corps Warfighting Lab experiment -- Urban Warrior -- in January 1998.