Newly-minted US Marine 2nd Lieutenants at the valedictory war game of the US Marine Corps Infantry Officer Course were recently tasked to carry out an airborne raid on San Clemente Island, located off the California coast. The mission was to fly in on fast-moving V-22 Ospreys, and wipe out missile launch sites to clear the way for US warships waiting to move in. The young US Marine Corps officers then marched 14 miles overnight to seize an airfield so simulated F-35 fighter jets, serving as their air-support, could land. Since the F-35 is not fully operational, ‘CATBird’ test-aircraft equipped with the same high-tech sensors that can be found on the F-35 were used instead.
Frustrated with their standard-issue communications gear, the Marine officers were able to set up an improvised wireless network using commercial Samsung Tablet devices. This alternative means of overcoming standard communication equipment shortcomings, dubbed ‘Battlefield WiFi’, proved to be a huge success, as Marines on foot and Marines riding in their fast-flying V-22 Ospreys could exchange intelligence, rewrite plans, and receive reconnaissance data from the simulated F-35s. When units on the ground were unable to transmit information directly to each other due to terrain blocking their signal, the Marines were able to relay the message via a V-22 flying overhead. Additionally, and when their 40-pound Wasp drones (carried in their rucksacks) couldn’t send surveillance footage to the Marines’ tablets, the Marines simply took digital photos of the Wasp control screen and relayed them to each other.
After $80 billion spent on developing the F-35 fighter, the US Military has been focusing on other types of combat roles for this new 5th generation stealth fighter jet, and it appears that ‘Battlefield WiFi’ has proven very useful to the F-35’s ultra-sophisticated sensors. With the next generation of high ranking military commanders currently growing up accustomed to the everyday technology of this era, the future capabilities of US military warfare look to be highly promising.