Arthur J. Villasanta – Fourth Estate Contributor
Washington, DC, United States (4E) – The U.S. Marine Corps is training for a war against China where it will partner tough Grunts with aerial drones and armed ground robots.
A few months from now, Marines will being “Experiment 2” of the ongoing “Squad X program” developed by the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). Squad X partners human fighting men with aerial drones and tracked ground robots at the squad level to increase the odds of combat victory.
The recent first test of DARPA’s Squad X program successfully demonstrated the ability to extend and enhance the situational awareness of a Marine squad. In a weeklong test series at California in November, U.S. Marine squads improved their ability to synchronize maneuvers with these robots.
A Marine combat squad consists of 13 fighting men armed with either automatic rifles or light machine guns.
The Marines are also developing a warfighting doctrine where the first “Marines” to invade an enemy-held island won’t be flesh-and-blood Grunts, but robot soldiers such as MUTT or the Multi Utility Tactical Transport armed with machine guns, which led Marines in a victorious mock assault on an enemy beach in early 2017.
“If the first thing ashore in the next conflict is a Marine, we will fail,” declared Brig. Gen. Julian Alford, Vice Chief Of Naval Research and Commanding Officer, Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory, Futures Directorate, Combat Development and Integration. “A machine needs to be in there.”
During Experiment 1, Marines employed autonomous aerial droness and ground vehicles to detect threats from multiple sources — physical, electromagnetic and cyber. Robots provided Marines with critical intelligence as squads moved through various combat scenarios.
Squad X provides dismounted Marine and Army units with autonomous systems developed via DARPA’s Squad X Core Technologies program. The technologies aim to increase squads’ situational awareness and lethality, allowing firefights to be conducted with greater tempo and from longer range.
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