New Multi-Year War Experiment Will Prepare Marines to Fight in Crowded Cities

Lance Cpl. Bailey Behunin, a rifleman with the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit, provides rear security while conducting an urban platoon assault during an exercise at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, Calif., Nov. 12, 2018. (U.S. Marine Corps/Lance Cpl. Dalton S. Swanbeck)
Lance Cpl. Bailey Behunin, a rifleman with the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit, provides rear security while conducting an urban platoon assault during an exercise at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, Calif., Nov. 12, 2018. (U.S. Marine Corps/Lance Cpl. Dalton S. Swanbeck)

The Marine Corps plans to launch an urban-combat operations experiment this summer, and the service wants defense firms and academia to submit ideas for weapons and fighting technologies aimed at making Marine infantry units more effective in this deadly environment.

The Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory recently released a request for information to search for emerging and mature technologies to be included in a new "limited objective experiment" focused on dense urban operations, according to an April 15 solicitation posted on the government contracting website FedBizOpps.

This will be a series of experiments held between August 2019 and August 2023, with the opening experiment set for August 1-30 at the Muscatatuck Urban Training Center in Indiana, according to the solicitation.

Marine Corps leaders have for years talked about the importance of preparing to fight in mega-cities as they anticipate a future operating environment. But this may be the most far-reaching effort to date to ready the service for the fight.

"The experiment provides warfighters the opportunity to assess the operational utility of emerging technologies and engineering innovations ... for sensing, speed of decision/action and lethality in dense urban environments," according to the solicitation.

The goal of the experiment, according to the solicitation is to find improved technologies that support the Marine rifle company and its subordinate elements, with a focus on the ground-pounders prosecuting the fight.

The warfighting lab is looking for weapons technologies that will provide Marine units with "mass and precision fires solutions" designed to penetrate urban structures "with or without destruction," the solicitation states.

Essential need include obscuring systems and personnel in a cyber-contested environment, as well as damaging and destroying enemy holdings, according to the solicitation.

Weapons technologies relevant to the experiment could consist of "fire-and-forget systems operable from enclosed space with variable-attack profiles to defeat active and passive protection," according to the solicitation.

Marines are looking for systems with adjustable range that can "arm and achieve effect" at short arming ranges, as close as 20 meters.

Indirect-fire systems capable of being employed from concrete or asphalt that can be set up without advance preparation and effectively used to suppress or destroy "are highly desired," the solicitation states. Precision fires that can acquire and track moving targets are also critical, it adds.

The Marines also want to evaluate new sensing capabilities to provide situational awareness of factors -- human and environmental -- that could affect a mission, the solicitation states.

It notes that Marines must be able to sense, identify and classify humans, equipment, vehicles and infrastructure in their environment, and distinguish "friendly, enemy, and local population signatures and activities." Among the capabilities sought are facial recognition and biometrics.

Advanced command-and-control technologies "capable of penetrating urban architecture and subterranean features" will also be needed for the extended support of distributed small units, the solicitation states.

"Small units operating within an urban environment require a common operating picture capable of displaying friendly, enemy (indicates criminal, potential enemy, conventional, [special operations forces], militia), and local population," the solicitation states.

The experiment will also evaluate capabilities designed to enhance maneuver through crowded urban areas to help Marines gain the upper hand over the enemy.

"Movement in urban environments requires the ability to traverse urban canyons, over walls and structures, in subterranean corridors, over buildings, and through structures," the solicitation states. "The warfighter needs the ability to clear the interior of structures that are multi-story, from the bottom up, top down, and/or to create entry breaches in the interior and exterior of these structures."

The ability of Marines to carry their fighting tools in this environment will also be a key consideration.

"Technology applied to the urban fight must enable, not restrict, or inhibit the individual Marine or sailors' maneuver," according to the solicitation. "It should not add to the load carried, [but] rather lighten, improve ease of employment, and streamline the numbers of systems."

Based on the results of the technical and operational assessments from the August experiment, participants may be invited to take part in future experiments designed to progress through more complex scenarios and environments, according to the solicitation.

-- Matthew Cox can be reached at matthew.cox@military.com.

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