The Royal Marines train with autonomous systems
The Royal Marines Commandos underwent two weeks of experimental exercises with a variety of autonomous systems operating from the air, land and sea.
Autonomous Advance Force 4.0 saw autonomous systems assist the Royal Marines as they conducted training raids on “enemy” positions, including missile and radar installations. Unmanned systems have been used on missions at the RAF Spadeadam Electronic Warfare Tactics Facility in Cumbria and off the south coast in training areas around Lulworth Cove and the Defense BattleLab in Dorset. The ultimate goal is to bring autonomous systems on the front line to support the commando forces.
In a statement, First Sea Lord, Admiral Sir Tony Radakin, said: “It is only by continuing to experiment with the latest technologies and innovations that we can properly prepare our staff for the challenges of the future.
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“Autonomous Advance Force 4.0 tests how well hybrid forces can operate on the battlefield, with elite Royal Navy commandos enhancing their capabilities with the use of drone swarms.”
Royal Marines ground response teams were able to call in swarms of Malloy Aeronautics TRV150 drones – which can lift up to 68 kg – for deliveries of ammunition, blood and other supplies. Commandos carried a small, sturdy tablet on their chest, which allowed them to access a location on a map and the time of supply delivery.
Anduril’s Ghost drone – a mini-helicopter that flies almost silently and is equipped with advanced sensors – gave the commandos a live feed of what to expect. The long-endurance Ghost is said to be very difficult to detect, can fly autonomously, and accurately identifies targets. It can swarm with other Ghost drones – capturing thermal images and footage – and can be tasked with finding targets in coastal areas. The Ghost can also carry a mission-specific payload, clearing the way for forces to disembark ashore to carry out their mission with the support of drones.
The Remus underwater vehicles, dropped into the sea by the TRV150s, scanned the ocean for mines and obstacles using a set of sensors to provide information to the Amphibious Command.
On the waves, the Royal Navy ship MADFOX (Maritime Demonstrator For Operational eXperimentation) scanned the horizon using advanced sensors to relay information on a coastal area before an attack. The commandos also used the Cobra fixed-wing drone, a long-endurance asset with a wingspan of 3.1m that can be launched from unprepared ground or from a ship and is used to identify and track targets.
Finally, the commandos performed simulator and remote training with the Tactical Precision Strike system, a munition that floats in the air until a human operator asks it to attack.
The information transmitted by these autonomous sensors was brought together in the EVE network, an experimental communication network which increases the knowledge of the commandos’ situation on the battlefield.
The results of Autonomous Advance Force 4.0 build on experiments carried out in the Mediterranean and the Arctic in 2020. Experiments will continue in the United States later this year during Exercise Green Dagger in the California desert.