Responding to today's threats requires innovation, agility and creative strategies, said Maj. Gen. Stephen Johnson, deputy commanding general of the Marine Corps Combat Development Command. Johnson gave a preview of the soon-to-be released Marine Corps Science and Technology Strategic Plan at the 2007 Naval S&T Partnership Conference in Washington, D.C., July 31.
The strategic plan, which was released in late August, focuses on alignment with the needs of the warfighter. The objectives have been developed along the lines of providing vision and guidance, with explanations of why each focus area is important. Johnson discussed the focus on the war against Islamic extremists.
"This long war we're currently engaged in is more dangerous than World War II," he said. He explained that the United States is no longer protected from an enemy by ocean barriers.
Enemies can come here, and they are using unconventional tactics. Population increases step up the competition for resources, providing a source of friction among nations. Wars are fought at cyber-borders as well, a factor that was not present in previous conflicts, Johnson said.
Specific areas of concern include the need to distinguish between counterinsurgencies and extremist efforts. Training and equipping the Iraqi army and police forces, and working with Iraqis to restore the nation's infrastructure remain highly important.
Working with local Iraqi governments and providing them with "how-to" advice are not typically thought of as military functions. However, Johnson noted that this type of assistance is necessary, along with providing supplies, fuel and logistical help.
Science and technology contribute to the effort in the form of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities, among other applications.
Johnson stated that results of the science and technology innovations used routinely in the field today are the products of past research and development, and he cited several examples, such as robotics and the Global Positioning System. (See text box below.)
Maj. Gen. Johnson cited several examples of military S&T in use in the field today:|
• GPS navigation
• flak jackets
• secure communications technologies
• Internet communications
• distributed operations
• computer modeling
• simulation training
• counter-IED technologies
• rifle optics
• counter-sniper technologies
• night vision equipment
• signal jammers
• unmanned vehicles
Due to continuous technological improvements, there is an expectation for fast responses to warfighters' needs, Johnson said. However, merely sending more equipment can cause problems as well as solve them. It's not unusual for some warfighters to carry 100 to 120 pounds of equipment. This not only slows them down, but in the extreme heat of Iraq, carrying excessive weight can cause health problems as well. Significant effort is now going into lightening warfighters' loads.
When you're sending S&T to the field, you have to manage your efforts, said Johnson. "You can't just send a jumble of stuff." Miniaturizing equipment and making it more efficient is one way to approach this problem, but existing technologies can also be used in better ways. For example, using equipment that runs on a standard type of battery can reduce the need to carry many kinds of specialized batteries.
If you absolutely have to carry a lot of equipment, having a low-maintenance assistant to carry part of your load could be useful. Robotic assistants such as BigDog don't eat, sleep or require R&R, and they can handle rough terrain too.
In addition to robotics, unmanned vehicles for ground, sea, air and space with integrated sensors save lives, gather intelligence and provide attack capability for high-risk missions. One such UGV, Multifunction Utility/Logistics and Equipment, or MULE, offers extraordinary capability in unmanned vehicle technology to tackle dangerous missions such as detecting and neutralizing anti-tank mines.
MULE’s highly advanced six-foot by six-foot independent articulated suspension, coupled with in-hub motors powering each wheel, provides extreme mobility in complex terrain, far exceeding that of vehicles with conventional suspension systems. The MULE vehicle is also an essential component of the Army’s Future Combat System to support dismounted and air assault operations.
The S&T strategy addresses not only technologies, such as aviation and seabasing, but also “human performance” and training. Human performance spans the areas of physiology, nutrition, cognition and kinetics.
Immersive training takes advantage of the Millennium Generation’s familiarity with video games and virtual reality, coupled with ever-increasing computing power. This training is useful not only for bringing new recruits up to speed, but also as a means of training experienced personnel to use new technologies. Modeling and simulation provide a means of out-thinking an enemy and for assessing new weapons under various situations and conditions.
The strategy balances attention to the needs of today with anticipation of future needs. Marine Corps leadership is convinced of the necessity of S&T — “They’ve caught the bug,” Johnson said. He closed his remarks by reiterating a commitment to “give our Marines the best tools that we can.”
The Marine Corps S&T Strategic Plan is based on guidance from the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the Department of the Navy as approved by the Naval S&T Corporate Board. To download a copy of the Marine Corps S&T Strategic Plan, go to www.mcwl.usmc.mil.
The Marine Corps S&T Enterprise is an integral part of the larger Naval Research Enterprise, a collaborative effort between the Marine Corps Combat Development Command, under the staff cognizance of the Deputy Commandant, Combat Development and Integration (DC,CD&I), the Marine Corps Systems Command and ONR.
The Commandant provides the future vision for the Marine Corps based on strategic guidance. This vision is expanded by staff to develop warfighting concepts and determine required capabilities in doctrine, organization, training, materiel, leadership and education, personnel and facilities to enable combat-ready forces.
The Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory supports combat development under the Marine Corps Combat Development Command. It conducts wargaming and experimentation that support emerging concepts and adapts and assesses selected technologies.
The S&T Partnership Conference was coordinated by the National Defense Industrial Association with technical assistance from the Office of Naval Research. This annual forum draws defense acquisition professionals, engineers and scientists across government, academia and industry. For more information about the conference, go to the ONR Web site at www.onr.navy.mil.
Nancy McGuire is with the Office of Naval Research public affairs.
Defense Department Looks at the MULE
Lockheed Martin’s Multifunction Utility/Logistics and Equipment (MULE) offers extraordinary capability in unmanned vehicle technology. The MULE’s highly advanced 6x6 independent articulated suspension, coupled with in-hub motors powering each wheel, provides extreme mobility in complex terrain, far exceeding that of vehicles using more conventional suspension systems.
The MULE climbs at least a 1-meter step, and can cross 1-meter gaps, traverse side slopes greater than 40 percent, ford water to depths over 0.5 meter and overpass obstacles as high as 0.5 meter while compensating for varying payload weights and center-of-gravity locations.
The MULE vehicle is sling-loadable under military rotorcraft. It includes three variants: Armed Robotic Vehicle – Assault (Light), Transport and Countermine.
The Air Assault version (ARV-A-L) is armed with a rapid-fire suppressive weapon and an anti-tank capability. It is designed to provide immediate heavy firepower to the dismounted Soldier.
The Transport MULE-T configuration is designed to support the Future Force Soldier by providing the volume and payload capacity to carry up to 2,400 pounds of equipment and supplies to support two dismounted infantry squads. Multiple tie-down points and removable/foldable side railings support virtually any payload variation, including casualty evacuation.
The Countermine MULE Vehicle (MULE-CM) variant is designed to detect and mark mines and minefields, greatly increasing the safety and mobility of the infantryman.
– U.S. Department of Defense