The Marine Corps Warfighting Lab’s (MCWL) Sea Dragon force development has resulted in new recommendations for unmanned tools needed to improve logistics capabilities, and officials are readying to shift focus and test information environment operations in next year’s third and final phase of the program.

Brig. Gen. Christian Wortman, commanding general of MCWL, told reporters a report to senior leadership on recommended logistics capabilities is due in early 2019, and the service will look to continue testing autonomous and multi-payload gear to improve close combat lethality operations.

Brig. Gen. Christian Wortman, Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory commanding general
Brig. Gen. Christian Wortman, Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory commanding general

“A lot of the work we’ve done over the course of the last year, we’re playing with different combinations manned and unmanned teaming and we’re working across a number of different domains with a number of different payloads. “We’re realizing there a lot of options for really challenging, sophisticated combined arms integration. So we’ll continue with this work through fiscal year ’19,” Wortman said. “We believe that were just really starting to tap the full potential on these multi-domain, multi-payload unmanned and loitering systems, and that we can generate significant operational advantage as we continue to develop this technology.”

The last eight months for Sea Dragon included two live force experiments and three wargames focused on improving logistics capacity, according to Wortman.

“During our logistics-focused experimentation we identified unmanned and logistics distribution assets in all domains as high value. We are working aggressively on unmanned underwater vehicles, unmanned surface vehicles, unmanned air vehicles and unmanned ground vehicles to support our logistics distribution requirements,” Wortman said.

Wortman specifically highlighted unmanned underwater vehicles as a key future capability for its ability to sustain operations over extended ranges and reduce adversaries’ ability for target detection.

The report due to the commandant early next year is expected to recommend “the modernization of logistics command and control, raising situational awareness and supporting rapid decision,” Wortman said.

Additive manufacturing and 3D printing have also proven critical in Sea Dragon’s exercises and will be included in the report’s recommendations, according to Wortman.

“This technology will be critical in the future for compressing the supply chain and ensuring the readiness of our most important expeditionary and austere locations,” Wortman said.

The final phase of Sea Dragon will shift focus to defining a specific set of capabilities needed to improve information environment operations.

Wortman said the Marine Corps is looking for more resilient network tools, improved sensor deployment, increased propensity for domain awareness, integrated command and control capabilities, and an ability to rapidly stop enemy’s ability to sense the environment.

The program is set to culminate in a large-scale urban warfare experiment in summer 2019.

Wortman added that the program will continue looking at options for advanced long-range land and air-based fires, including anti-ship missiles, but did not specify a timeline for such a program.

“The commandant is determined to provide a Marine Corps capability to strike, kill and blow against advanced surface ships for our air assets or land-based locations,” Wortman said.