Non-grunts, experiments focus on you in the next phase of Sea Dragon

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MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO, Va. ― The first wave of the Marine Corps’ Sea Dragon experiments tackled how to make combat arms more tech-centric and lethal. The next presents even more complicated challenges. As they roll through the second wave, focused mostly on keeping those warfighters supplied and protected, the Marines in upcoming exercises will have two major challenges: running rugged, isolated Expeditionary Advanced Bases and pushing new tech and concepts against an adaptive fighting foe. Oh, and don’t forget the urban setting, which is increasingly likely. The state of the Marine Corps: Can the Corps’ new vision actually become reality? The Corps is pushing modernization — but is left with serious challenges. By: Shawn Snow Marine Col. Robert Hallett, director of the Marine Corps Warfighting Lab’s experimentation division, laid out what’s happened and what’s coming for Sea Dragon 2025 at this year’s Modern Day Marine military expo in Quantico, Virginia, Wednesday. A lot is going on, but at least four main priorities emerged from the variety of experiments and upcoming training exercises: expeditionary logistics, long-range precision fires, operations in the information environment and operations in communications degraded/denied environments. To that end, this logistics-focused phase of the experiments has and will see work on expeditionary medicine and electronic warfare. Some of the hardware they’re seeking ranges from near-term prospects that include a Class 5 drone that can serve as a wingman for the MV-22 Osprey fleet to more mid-term items such as unmanned ground robots, the Army’s Squad Multipurpose Equipment Transport, a kind of equipment mule for dismounted squads and unmanned air systems. And that doesn’t include “far-term” objectives for ultra-endurance drones and drown swarms. That’s just on the robot side. They also will evaluate tactical electronic warfare kit, company- and platoon-level command and control assets, cyber tools. And that as-for-now elusive all-electric Marine air ground task force to eliminate the tyranny of fuel. If that sounds like a lot to pack into this phase of experiments, remember that the last round, which lasted just under two years and focused on infantry tasks, resulted in list of changes either in or headed to formations now. A sampling includes ruggedized laptops, tablets, improved squad communications, binocular night vision, thermal clip on devices, the M27 rifle, the Modular Handgun System, suppressors for grunts, the all-terrain MRZR and the M320A1 low-velocity grenade launcher. And they completed fielding of a quadcopter squad for all 32 infantry battalions and qualified nearly 1,000 Marines over the past three years to call air and naval gun fire in the rifle squads. Oh, and the commandant change the size and configuration of the rifle squad to boot. There’s already been a few exercises on the logistics side, but more are to come with Trident Juncture in Norway, which begins in late October, and at least three Advanced Naval Technology Experiments, or ANTXs, devoted to Expeditionary Advanced Bases, the linchpin for the Littoral Operations in Contested Environments warfighting concept unveiled at last year’s Modern Day Marine. And Marines running through these experiments won’t get much rest as they’ll face an “adaptive threat force,” or opposition force, prodding them as they go. Lt. Col. Dan Schmitt, also with MCWL, told the audience that a variety of opponents will serve as sparring partners for Marines as they test these new concepts and equipment. Some of that will be wide-open “free play” from opponents of various strengths, while others specifically will be fighting as an innovative near-peer focused on defeating the MAGTF.

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