Posted: March 23, 2017 4:35 PM

Advanced Naval Technology Exercise Aims to Test Leap-Ahead Forcible Entry Capabilities

By OTTO KREISHER, Special Correspondent

QUANTICO, Va. — The Navy and Marine Corps are planning an Advanced Naval Technology Exercise (ANTX) next month that will display, demonstrate and test a stunning array of new technologies and concepts, all aimed at accelerating the development and fielding of leap-ahead capabilities for naval forcible entry operations.

“Being a great power, you have to maintain a forcible entry capability. That’s our day job,” said Col. Daniel M. Sullivan, chief of staff Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory (MCWL), and co-lead of the ANTX 2017 exercise, subtitled Ship-to-Shore Maneuver Exploration and Experimentation.

The exercise will feature about 100 developing or proposed technologies and new uses of existing systems. It will enable Sailors and Marines trained in expeditionary and amphibious operations to add their hands-on evaluation of the technologies to the assessments from a multitude of Department of Defense (DoD) scientists and technicians.

The exercise will focus on five capability concept areas — ship-to-shore maneuver; amphibious fire support and effects; clearing amphibious assault lanes; amphibious command, control, communications and computers; and amphibious information warfare.

A lot of the technologies involve varying levels of autonomy and manned-unmanned teaming of aerial, ground, surface and underwater systems intended to reduce the risk to the human warfighters or to facilitate currently difficult operations, such as reconnaissance or mine clearance in contested environments.

Some of the promising systems or concepts will be given to Marines to test further in a major field exercise this fall while others will be put into rapid prototyping, six officials from MCWL and Navy Research, Development, Testing and Evaluation (RDT&E) offices said at a March 23 briefing.

The exercise is an outgrowth of the recognition by naval and DoD officials that while U.S. forces have been engaged in relatively low-tech ground combat since the 9/11 terrorists’ attacks, potential adversaries have been reaping the advantages of the rapid advance and proliferation of technologies. That is threatening the technological advantage U.S. forces have long enjoyed.

The drive also is in response to current events, such as “a revanchist Russia and surging China,” Sullivan said.

Looking at the threat from those potential adversaries, “we know we have to go faster, to accelerate innovation,” said Capt. Chris Mercer, director, Rapid Prototyping and Experimentation, deputy assistant Navy secretary for RDT&E, and task force co-lead with Sullivan. “Congress is working with us, giving us new authorities. ... Speed, speed, is what we have to do.”

ANTX will be conducted April 24-28 on the beaches and training facilities at Marine Corp Base Camp Pendleton, Calif. It will involve hundreds of Marines, Sailors and DoD civilians, and many contractors and vendors, including some “nontraditional” suppliers that the task force members have had to coax and assist to get them to offer their advanced concepts to DoD, the briefers said.

The array of unmanned systems range from a crude, unpowered gliding “wooden box” that can deliver 1,600 pounds of supplies, to swarms of unmanned aerial vehicles that can create disruption or deception, to sophisticated autonomous sensors that can collect intelligence in the air, on land and in the water.

There also are numerous technologies to enhance situational awareness, communications and analysis in complex, rapidly evolving operations and to improve weapon lethality and precision.

The most tangible take away from ANTX will be to put the most promising technologies and in the hands of Marines to test, Sullivan said. And the combat developers will be there to help set requirements for future acquisition programs, he said.

The drive behind ANTX 2017 is led by Lt. Gen Robert Walsh, commanding general, Marine Corps Combat Development Command, which includes MCWL, and Dr. John Burrow, deputy assistance secretary of the Navy for RDT&E. And it is strongly supported by Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John B. Richardson and Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert B. Neller.

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