Tactical Operations Centre

The Tactical Operations Centre (TOC) is a command post used by USCM field commanders to communicate and observe the status of the Marines that are deployed in the field.

All section communications are routed through the command post. A TOC can run from command post aboard the platoon transport, usually a M577 APC or UD4L Cheyenne. A section command post usually features a bank of monitors accepting direct feeds from individual Marines' bio-readouts and tactical cameras. Secondary monitors provide updates from the section motion trackers and robot sentries. A FDMA (Frequency Division Multiple Access) system runs from the TOC base transmitter/ receiver handles all communications through a single bandwidth without interference or overlap. In case of a portable TOC, the command post can be run from one or more networked multifunction terminals, which can focus on individuals within the platoon, or cycle through them one by one.

Audio communication works on a multiplex system, in which all members of a communications net can talk simultaneously with each other; however, in practice, strict radio discipline must be enforced to prevent the net from becoming jammed with calls during combat. For this reason, the field commander has the option of switching his section network to a simplex system, where no more than one person can talk at a time. It is also possible through the multiplex system to addresses a particular squad or group. These groupings can be setup using the TOC and then transmitted to the PRC 489/4, but only two groupings can be held on each helmet/ headset.

In an EW intense environment, the field commander must strive to maintain close links with his command. The PRC 489/4 system is frequency agile, able to keep ahead of enemy Direction Finding (DF), intercept and jamming. (Though in practice, spectral pollution often radically reduces the effectiveness of frequency hopping). In situations where an enemy is using DF in concert with artillery to locate and strike friendly troop concentrations, field commanders have the option to switch the audio net to a Direct Sequence Spread Spectrum (DSSS) system. This effectively prevents the use of tactical video, but spreads all audio transmissions across a wide band. Such signals are hard to locate by DF because of their similarity to background radio noise.

From his TOC, the field commander can run the battle in realtime, drawing constant information via links to his troops, sensor matrices, robot sentries, and uplinks to higher level intelligence assets, such as flying recon drones. Colonial Marine doctrine stresses the need to maintain a high tempo of operations in the field, by continually ensuring the decision/ action cycle isn't allowed to lag.

Traditionally, command and control works on the principle of 'two up/ two down'; an officer commands the echelon below him and knows the status of the echelon below that. Thus a Marine company commander commands his platoons, yet is aware only of the dispositions of the sections in each platoon. Company TOCs are connected to platoon TOCs by radio transmissions, line-of-sight microwave relays or CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access) satellite uplinks. Platoon TOCs are in turn connected to the section TOCs via VHF commlink. The flexibility built into this command network allows the company (or even battalion) commander to route his communications directly through to the field units that are engaged the hardest, receiving reports from section commanders at the heart of the battle. This works both ways, providing higher echelon commanders with eyewitness information on the battle situation, while giving the squad commanders direct access to higher echelon combat assets such as artillery and air support. However, such flexibility would not be possible without proper protocols, which must be rigidly enforced to prevent abuse of the system.

Efficient, responsive Command and Control is one of the most effective weapons in a field commander's arsenal, easily worth more than sheer firepower alone. It is a force multiplier that makes victory possible even when over matched in terms of numbers and weaponry. The US Colonial Corps' investment in state-of-the-art communications equipment has made effective C2 possible. In turn, this has made it possible for the Marine Corps to continue to fulfil its commitments despite the increasingly limited resources available to it.

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