Acting Secretary of the Navy Sean Stackley summed up the significance of the multiple examples of autonomy, innovation and rapid prototyping on display during the Ship to Shore Maneuver Exploration and Experimentation (S2ME2) Advanced Naval Technology Exercise (ANTX), a land-sea-air exercise held at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, April 19-28, 2017.
"They're doing a lot of ground work, so you don't have to," he explained to the Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. Robert B. Neller when examining the 3-D additive manufacturing printing capabilities of the Expeditionary Manufacturing (EXMAN) self-contained unit, a prototype mobile facility designed by the engineers and scientists of the Navy's Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center Pacific (SSC Pacific). EXMAN was developed for the Marine Corps and can quickly produce low weight, low cost replacements for critically needed parts or materials for the warfighter in theater.
In an era where the advantage of possessing superior technological capabilities is rapidly being canceled out by an adversary's near parity of information, SSC Pacific, a low profile member of an exclusive team of research labs that comprise the Department of Defense’s biggest brain trust, is developing the sensors and communications networks capable of supporting autonomous aerial drones of all shapes and sizes, unmanned ground vehicles, swarming submersible drones and mine/counter mine robots for use in near-shore environments.
Carly Jackson, SSC Pacific’s director of prototyping for Information Warfare and the main organizer for the event, explained the key element of the exercise was to demonstrate new technology developed in rapid response to real world problems facing the fleet.
“This is a relatively new construct where we use the Navy’s organic labs and warfare centers to bring together emerging technologies and innovation to solve a very specific fleet force fighting problem. It’s focused on ‘first wave’ and mainly focused on unmanned systems with a big emphasis on intelligence gathering, surveillance, and reconnaissance,” she said.
“We’ve seen tremendous development and integration happening here... not only among our government teams and across the various system commands, but also with our industry partners and industry-to-industry collaborations as well.”
SSC Pacific technologies on display and in demonstration at the S2ME2 exercise included innovative air and ground vehicles; networked autonomous air and maritime vehicles; intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance technologies; logistics and resupply efforts; positioning, navigation, and timing capabilities.
As Tracy Conroy, experimentation director for SSC Pacific pointed out, the rapid prototyping and innovative technology of drones and unmanned vehicles offers a way to gather information that ultimately may help save lives.
“It’s given us eyes on the water, eyes under the water, eyes on the beach and in the sky,” he said. “We take less of a risk of losing a Marine or Navy Seal with that.”
Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center Pacific is the nation's only full spectrum C4ISR (command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance) laboratory providing research, development, acquisition, test and evaluation and full life-cycle support across systems that integrate the military's sensors, networks, command and control, and weapons into a fully netted combat force with full spectrum dominance.