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Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany

Readiness Enabler for Operational Forces  •
Imagery dissemination system upgraded

By Capt. Burrell D. Parmer | | May 30, 2002

Technology in the digital photography realm continues to make astonishing advances that quickly make previous capabilities obsolete. 

Following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, emergency supplemental funding was directed toward the Manpack Secondary Imagery Dissemination Systems program to replace obsolete equipment more quickly.

The MP SIDS is a manpackable digital imagery collection and transmission system that was considered leading edge technology in 1999. The currently fielded version of MP SIDS, already obsolete, is being refreshed. The refreshed system consists of three sets of out-station equipment and one set of base-station equipment.

Each refreshed out-station suite consists of one commercial, off-the-shelf, advanced digital still-photo camera; one basic digital still-photo camera; one night vision intensifier tube; one rugged handheld computer with data controller hardware and software; and a set of fixed and telephoto lenses.

The refreshed base-station suite features a rugged laptop computer and a commercial, off-the-shelf printer for hardcopy prints of collected images.

The MP SIDS will collect, process, annotate, manipulate and transmit digital imagery in near-real-time, which will allow the Marine Air-Ground Task Force commander access to time-sensitive reconnaissance imagery.

The SIDS falls under Mission Area 12, Intelligence, and can acquire and disseminate the information to Marine and joint organizations to support mission planning. In a secondary function, the MP SIDS will enable forward deployed Reconnaissance Marines to receive all-source intelligence updates from national, theater and other service sources, allowing them to operate on the most current information available.

The MP SIDS works in conjunction with organic Marine Corps/Navy radios to transmit collected images from forward observation positions of the MAGTF's intelligence and operations centers.

The MP SIDS provides an important tool in the MAGTF's effort to conduct intelligence planning and all-source intelligence product preparation. At predetermined transmission windows, the data from the digital cameras is transmitted over field radios to Marine recon operations centers.

Base-station operators, located onboard Navy amphibious ships or ashore in intelligence/operations centers, receive the images and conduct initial analysis. Thereafter, they can pass the images with amplifying remarks over the Secret Internet Protocol Router Network to intelligence analysts for further exploitation.

The MP SIDS provides the only organic, ground-perspective imagery capability to MAGTF recon units. Marine recon units are continually required to move lighter, faster, and to leave the smallest footprint possible.

Each subsequent block upgrade will introduce enhancements to previous capabilities. Additionally, technology inserts enable far superior imagery resolution with each block upgrade. The imagery is essential for mission planning and intelligence. 

Other near-real-time imaging capabilities organic to the MAGTF, such as unmanned ariel vehicles and F/A 18 Advanced Tactical Airborne Reconnaissance Systems, only provide overhead imagery and cannot capture the detail and ground perspectives available with the MP SIDS.

In asymmetric threat environments where targets of interest are often small, highly mobile units, such as terrorists or guerilla units, it is imperative that the MAGTF be able to identify individuals and structures from the ground level. The required detail is neither available from overhead sources, nor in the initial fielded version of the MP SIDS.

Technology insertions via the Block Refresh plan will enable the recon Marines to receive the most logical technological inserts in a more timely fashion.

Operators are recon personnel, military occupational specialty 0321, of a force recon company, division recon company, light armored recon company, or a reserve recon company. 

Maintainers are field radio operators, MOS 2531, computer technicians, MOSs 2818/2821, or small computer systems specialist, MOS 4066, of a force recon company, light armored recon company, or a reserve recon company.