MSIDS: MAGTF(Marine Air Ground Task Force) Secondary Imagery Dissemination System

Had a quick class on this system today. It's a pretty sexy integration of new consumer technology with ancient(ok, not ancient, but old) military techonology.

Basically, it's a digital camera with a small 'ruggedized' laptop that has a peripheral which can transfer files through a radio or satellite connection to other such setups.

The particular digital camera is an off the shelf Canon EOS-10D. And I got to play with it all morning. Now, I don't know much about digital cameras, but this thing was obviously a sweet piece of gear: 6.29 megapixels and a 3152x2068 resolution, plus we had this giant(100-400mm) telephoto lens to mess around with. There's also a nightvision lens accessory, but we didn't get to play with it.

The laptop is a 'Toughbook'. It's a Toshiba I think Pentium III 700MHz, with a touch-sensitive LCD. It's weird, the keyboard layout is like a full keyboard, except all of the keys are tiny. It's got all the normal i/o plugs, PS/2, USB, Ethernet, etc. And it's 'ruggedized', though I'm not sure how rugged that makes it.

Next comes the ancient part. There's an adaptor that hooks from the Toughbook to a PRC-119 SINCGARS radio. This thing is an antique. It's what you see in Vietnam War movies, and it's still in use. We use them. We have two of them in every LAV-25, plus an extra one per platoon for Scouts in a backpack. They're pretty functional, and as far as I can tell nigh-indestructible, but they're so old. And they're pretty unreliable, and I think needlessly complicated. It's really weird seeing a high-speed low-drag laptop connected to one of these things. So, there's some kind of e-mail program that recognizes the radio and you can send the picture over radio trasnmission, much like a modem. In fact, I guess it's really a literal modem, seeing as how the radio transmission is hardly digital.

Anyway, the idea is to take a picture, put it on the laptop, size and manipulate it via Photoshop (Elements 2.0 was what was installed) so it's manageable over the radio network, which is pretty slow.

It's a pretty neat setup, but the problem is that our command won't really let us play with them that much, because the gear is pretty expensive. Which is pretty understandable, considering Marines, especially grunts are idiots.

The ramifications for intelligence/reconnaissance purposes are pretty obvious. Take a picture of an enemy position or whatever, send it back to higher so they can get a good visual idea of what's going on up front. Also, route reconnaissance is a good use, and, from what I've heard, what the system was mostly used for during OIF.