The first test of DARPA’s Squad X Experimentation program successfully demonstrated it improves situational awareness and coordination for small dismounted units in a weeklong test series at Twentynine Palms, California. U.S. Marine squads improved their ability to synchronize maneuvers, utilizing autonomous air and ground vehicles to detect threats from multiple domains – physical, electromagnetic and cyber – providing critical intelligence as the squad moved through scenarios, DARPA said in a release.
Squad X provides Army and Marine dismounted units with autonomous systems equipped with off-the-shelf technologies and unique sensing tools developed via DARPA’s Squad X Core Technologies program. The technologies aim to increase squads’ situational awareness and lethality, allowing enemy engagement with greater tempo and from longer ranges, DARPA said.
The Squad X program manager in DARPA’s Tactical Technology Office, U.S. Army Lt. Col. Phil Root, said “Experiment 1 demonstrated the ability for the squad to communicate and collaborate, even while “dancing on the edge of connectivity.”
The technologies could be a game-changer for infantry units when they are most vulnerable to enemy surprise. Squad members involved in the test runs praised the streamlined tools, which allowed them to take advantage of capabilities that previously had been too heavy or cumbersome for individual Soldiers and Marines to use in demanding field conditions.
“Each run, they learned a bit more on the systems and how they could support the operation,” said Root, who is also program manager for Squad X Core Technologies. “By the end, they were using the unmanned ground and aerial systems to maximize the squad’s combat power and allow a squad to complete a mission that normally would take a platoon to execute.”
Two groups, Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control and CACI’s BIT Systems, each are working on different approaches to provide unique capabilities to extend and enhance ground infantries’ ability to maneuver with greater situational awareness. Manned-unmanned teaming is critical to both companies’ solutions.
Marines testing Lockheed Martin’s Augmented Spectral Situational Awareness, and Unaided Localization for Transformative Squads (ASSAULTS) system used autonomous robots with sensor systems to detect enemy locations, allowing the Marines to engage and target the enemy with a precision 40mm grenade before the enemy could detect their movement. Small units using CACI’s BITS Electronic Attack Module (BEAM) were able to detect, locate, and attack specific threats in the radio frequency and cyber domains.
DARPA said Experiment 2 is targeted for early 2019.