Marine Corps Innovation Efforts Yielding Ideas Like JSF-Unmanned Teaming, Ground Recon Robots

U.S. Marine Forces Europe and Africa deputy director of communication Master Sgt. Chad E. McMeen uses a commercial-grade Quadcopter to capture aerial video footage of the USNS William R. Button on the pier in Rota, Spain, during the preparation phase of Trident Juncture 2015.US Army photo.

by Megan Eckstein

ARLINGTON, Va. — The Marine Corps recently launched three major innovation efforts that are already informing the service’s unmanned systems’ priorities, the deputy commandant for combat development and integration said today.

This year the service launched a Marine Corps Force 2025 effort to look at restructuring the force to meet current and future needs such as cyber and electronic warfare, a Sea Dragon 2025 experimentation effort to test out new concepts and technologies, and a Commandant of the Marine Corps Innovation Portal to solicit ideas on a variety of topics.

Lt. Gen. Robert Walsh said today at the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International’s (AUVSI) annual defense conference that each of the three vehicles for innovation had already begun yielding ideas for unmanned tools.

For example, the Marine Corps already knew it wanted unmanned ground vehicles to help lighten the load infantry Marines have to carry on foot patrol. What it hadn’t considered, though, was a system it tested during the Marine Air-Ground Task Force (MAGTF) Integrated Experiment 2016 (MIX 16), conducted under the Sea Dragon 2025 banner. In the experiment, Walsh said, Marines in a valley sent ground robots with sensors and weapons up the ridge line to peer over – something reconnaissance Marines would normally do themselves, potentially exposing themselves to enemy fire or risking giving their position away. These robots could go up over the ridge line, sense and locate enemies based on radio frequency signatures, and then lase and shoot guided weapons at enemy targets as needed.

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