Handheld Tablet Improves Situational Awareness for Marines


During Island Marauder 2019, Marines will demonstrate the effectiveness of several Marine Corps Systems Command technologies—including a handheld system that helps the warfighter navigate on the battlefield.

The Marine Air-Ground Task Force Common Handheld is a tablet-based communication system that enhances situational awareness on the battlefield. The device enables dismounted Marines to leverage commercial smart devices to plot and share locations.

The device includes pre-installed tactical applications to eliminate the need to juggle multiple technologies for various capabilities, lightening the load for the warfighter.

“MCH is essentially an interactive tactical mapping program with a GPS navigation software and a chat functionality,” said Maj. Richard Beeson, MCH project officer at MCSC. “The technology feeds the battalion’s current operational picture with real-time friendly force positions and allows this battlespace awareness to be shared down to the squad-leader level.”

The tablet feeds the information into Networking On-the-Move, while simultaneously transmitting it to the Combat Operations Center, where command leaders can use the information to make critical battlefield decisions.

Through MCH, commanders can disseminate orders, graphics and digital data, providing Marines the ability to visualize the commander’s intent and scheme of maneuver.

“It helps Marines to share enemy locations in real-time in an easily understood digital, moving map format,” added Beeson.

MCH enables warfighters to pass messages to one another in real-time—similar to text messaging—allowing the commander to make faster, more effective, decisions. It also assists the warfighter in deciphering whether an explosion was caused by enemy or friendly fire.

“MCH is a Command and Control situational awareness system that gives the squad leader and platoon commander a better understanding of the battlefield to make tactical decisions,” said Justin Meidinger, an engineer for MCH. “This system helps them have a better idea of what is going on around them.”

Earlier this year, the Corps fielded an early release version of the system to Marines. In fiscal year 2020, the warfighter will receive an updated version of the MCH that allows Marines to communicate with one another through several additional joint communication systems.

Later this month at Island Marauder, Marines will demonstrate the effectiveness and interoperability of MCH by linking it with other satellite technologies. The risk-assessment evaluation is intended to reduce miscommunication among Marines who use communication technologies. Beeson raved about the benefits of MCH and how the system supports the warfighter.

“MCH allows for communication, collaboration and coordinating among units,” said Beeson. “It helps everyone to be on same page. MCH increases the digital lethality of Marine infantry squads while reducing the risk of friendly fire.”


By Matt Gonzales, MCSC Office of Public Affairs and Communication | Marine Corps Systems Command

8 Responses to “Handheld Tablet Improves Situational Awareness for Marines”

  1. Jim says:

    Gee, I hope someone thought of the prospect of using these in a near peer hostile environment where the bad guys have good ELINT and ECM capabilities. I’m sooo glad Russia and China never, ever “loan out” stuff for proxy bad guys to try out.

    There’s also the whole “Head Down” in a combat environment thing. I mean, I’m almost killed several times a week by idiots on their phones and tablets driving on the highway. What could possibly go wrong when you add high explosives, enemy small arms fire, and artillery to that equation? Is it going to work like a tacticool version of WAZE and tell you the last schmuck that went down this trail “found” an IED the hard way? I mean it seems like a lot of stuff to do right after your legs get blown off. You might have other priorities, ya know?

    The most important question is this though; Who is going to get the first NJP for accidentally IMing the battalion C.O. a penis pic?

    • Taylor says:

      1) Yes, I’m sure the military thinks about encryption. In fact I know they do because a lot of it is developed local to me (San Diego) crypto-breaking ELINT is everywhere and with everyone. In most cases comms. tech. like this is plenty secure being end to end encrypted. Nothing is impervious or perfect but the bad guys typically have the same or greater weaknesses and deficiencies IMO.

      2.) You will always have command elements and communications personnel that need to spend time “heads down” in an active environment (think radio OP etc.) Once you develop a familiarity with the tool checking it will become as quick and seamless as referencing a map or any other analog tool. I do not think the idea is to have this tech applied to every person @ the squad level but for certain individuals to be responsible for communication information found on the MCH/tablet.

      3.) It has likely already happened

  2. Yawnz says:

    Yeah man, fuck innovating because the other guy might have a countermeasure. Guess we shouldn’t provide soldiers with maps and compasses either, because they might have to look down at some point in order to use them.

  3. Big_Juju says:

    Looks like he had to take off his right glove to interact with the tablet. I’m sure we’ve all encountered that with our phones. Gonna be a pain taking the glove off and putting it back on every time you want to move the map around.
    On a different note – I wonder how they’ll carry these? Putting them in your assault pack would be kind of a hassle.

  4. Torch says:

    We have been using tablets operationally down range for a number of years, innovation is a good thing. This marine looks to be wearing COTS gloves he probably purchased himself. There are number of tactical gloves out there that work with tablets, he just doesn’t happen to be wearing one it looks like.

  5. Geoff says:

    Maybe its just me. But the guy with the tablet looks to be concentrating quite hard. And the guy on the right looks to be handing him a pad and pen like “yo, i got you sarn’t”