Royal Marines train with autonomous systems

Royal Marines Commandos have undergone two weeks of experimental exercises with a variety of autonomous systems operating from the air, land, and at sea.

Royal Marines
The Royal Marines carrying out experimental exercises with a swarm of drones (Image: MoD)

Autonomous Advance Force 4.0 saw autonomous systems assist the Royal Marines as they carried out training raids on ‘adversary’ positions, including missile and radar installations. The uncrewed systems were used on missions at the Electronic Warfare Tactics facility at RAF Spadeadam in Cumbria and off the south coast in training areas around Lulworth Cove and the Defence BattleLab in Dorset. The ultimate aim is to embed autonomous systems on the front line to support commando forces.

In a statement, First Sea Lord, Admiral Sir Tony Radakin, said: “Only by continued experimentation with the latest technology and innovation can we properly prepare our people for the challenges of the future.

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“Autonomous Advance Force 4.0 is testing just how hybrid forces can operate on the battlefield, with elite Royal Marine Commandos enhancing their capabilities with the use of drone swarms.”

Ground-based Royal Marines strike teams were able to call on swarms of Malloy Aeronautics’ TRV150 drones – which can lift up to 68kg – for deliveries of ammunition, blood and other supplies. The commandos carried small, ruggedised tablet on their chest giving the ability to tap a map location and time for the delivery of supplies.

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 lay ahead. The long endurance Ghost is said to be very difficult to detect, can fly autonomously, and accurately identifies targets. It can work in a swarm with other Ghost drones – capturing thermal images and footage – and can be tasked with finding targets in coastal zones. The Ghost can also carry a mission-specific payload, paving the way for forces to land ashore to conduct their mission with drone support.

Remus underwater vehicles, dropped into the sea by the TRV150s, scanned the ocean for mines and obstructions using an array of sensors to feed information to amphibious command.

On the waves, the Royal Navy’s MADFOX (Maritime Demonstrator For Operational eXperimentation) vessel scanned the horizon using advanced sensors to relay information on a coastal area prior to an attack. The commandos also utilised the fixed-wing Cobra drone, a long endurance asset with a 3.1m wingspan that can be launched from unprepared ground or from ship and is used for identifying and tracking targets.

Finally, the commandos carried out simulator and range training with the Tactical Precision Strike system, a munition that loiters in the air until told to attack by a human operator.

The information fed through these autonomous sensors were brought together in the EVE network, an experimental communications network that increases commandos’ situational awareness on the battlefield.

Findings from Autonomous Advance Force 4.0 add to experiments completed in the Mediterranean and in the Arctic in 2020. The experiments will continue in the United States later this year on Exercise Green Dagger in the Californian desert.