Navy, Marine Corps Planning Large-Scale Technology Demonstration

By Jon Harper

Photo: Marines

TRIANGLE, Va. — The Navy and Marine Corps are gearing up to host a major exercise that will bring together members of industry, scientists, engineers and war fighters to experiment with new technologies that could shape the future force.

The confab, known as advanced naval technology exercise 2017, or ANTX, will take place next month at Camp Pendleton, California.

“It’s going to be a very large technology exercise — large in scope and layout,” Navy Capt. Chris Mercer, director for rapid prototyping and experimentation in the office of the deputy assistant secretary of the Navy for research, development, test and evaluation, told reporters March 23.

The rapid development of advanced anti-access/area denial capabilities by potential adversaries such as China and Russia is driving a push for new equipment, officials said.

“The peer competitor piece is the rub, and that’s really what we’re focused on” for the ANTX demonstration, said Marine Col. Daniel Sullivan, chief of staff at the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory.

According to a draft document outlining the exercise, which was provided to reporters, the sea services are looking for equipment that facilitates: ship-to-shore maneuver; amphibious fire support and effects; clearing amphibious assault lanes; amphibious command and control, communications, computers; intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; and amphibious information warfare.

“You’ll see sailors and Marines paired up with scientists and technologists pouring over these technologies,” Mercer said.

Key items on the Navy and Marine Corps’ wish lists are robotics and autonomy capabilities that would enable more sophisticated manned-unmanned teaming.

“We can take our manned elements and put them in certain areas while we have other unmanned elements being … decoys to complicate the enemy’s firing and targeting problem,” said Marine Maj. Jim Foley, a plans officer at the laboratory.

Swarms of autonomous unmanned systems could perform reconnaissance missions and probe enemy defenses, he noted.

“I might send a swarm someplace, either aerial or surface or subsurface vehicles, in order to cause the enemy to commit his resources to that swarm,” he said. “I can now using different ship-to-shore connectors … move my force into the area where he’s not looking.”

Deception enabled by information technology tools is also critical, said Doug King, director of The Ellis Group at the lab.

“There’s a fight that has to occur in reconnaissance and counter-reconnaissance, meaning, I’ve got to corrupt what that enemy sees and knows,” he said. “What I need to do is figure out in this day of ISR how can I corrupt his picture … and how can I protect my information?”

About 100 vendors will display equipment at the ANTX demonstration.

“I haven’t seen anything like this where you’ve got this many things tied to what we’re trying to do,” King said.

The equipment that makes the cut will move on to the next evaluation phase, Sullivan said.

“Those technologies that prove to be the most valuable and the most ready for primetime, we’re going to go ahead and insert into an exercise in the fall,” Sullivan said.

They will most likely appear at Bold Alligator, which will be held at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, he said.

That process could be followed by rapid prototyping and an extended user evaluation by sailors and Marine, he noted.

“I think … a subset of these things will wind up for an extended user eval in the fleet,” Sullivan said.

ANTX could influence Navy and Marine Corps acquisitions in the years ahead.

“We’re going to bring all of our combat developers — the guys who actually do the programmatics that result in acquisitions — out there with us,” Sullivan said. “I see this as a very large-scale effort to inform requirements for future systems going forward.”

The chief of naval operations and the commandant of the Marine Corps are expected to attend.

A Marine Corps official from the Defense Innovation Unit Experimental is also slated to be there. The outfit, headquartered in Silicon Valley, was established to strengthen ties between the Pentagon and the nation’s technology hubs.

After ANTX concludes, “he goes back to Silicon Valley and articulates the technology challenges we had and what we’re looking at [and asks], ‘What can you do for us?’” Sullivan said.


Topics: Marine Corps News, Navy News

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