Several of the technologies pitched to the Marine Corps during a recent exercise in California will have a chance to make it to the big leagues when they join a major East Coast amphibious rehearsal next month.

Several of the technologies have drawn the eye of Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. Robert Neller, who was present at the Advanced Naval Technology Exercise (ANTX) at Camp Pendleton, Calif., earlier this year. Neller recently told reporters that he is particularly interested in several unmanned aerial and underwater systems.

Several Assault Amphibious Vehicles, one of which can be remotely operated, line the beach at Camp Pendleton, Calif., during a technology exercise. (Photo by Dan Parsons)
Several Assault Amphibious Vehicles, one of which can be remotely operated, line the beach at Camp Pendleton, Calif., during a technology exercise. (Photo by Dan Parsons)

In brief comments to reporters at the Modern Day Marine Expo in Quantico, Va., Neller said he is interested in the performance of a vertical-takeoff-and-landing drone that can transition to fast forward flight like a plane. He also sees promise in inexpenxive autonomous underwater vehicles.

“You can kinda let your imagination go,” he said last week. “Let’s say all those things that went out there in a swarm under the water, if they were 3-D printed out of explosives and they were targeted to go find a mine, so we just throw a hundred of them in the water and they are programmed to go find a mine.”

The ANTX was designed so the Marine Corps could propose operational needs to industry and then rapidly prototype and test proposed technologies.

Technologies that pass muster at ANTX will be fielded during Bold Alligator, a full-scale amphibious exercise at Camp Lejeune, N.C., in October. Others will be evaluated for inclusion in other ongoing or future development programs.

Doug King, as director of the Marine Corps Warfighting Lab’s future-predicting Ellis Group, was responsible for identifying capability gaps where technology could benefit Marine Corps operations. There were more than 130 technologies represented either physically or digitally at the ANTX in California, King said. At least 21 of those will be tested in real-world scenarios during Bold Alligator.

“Many of them got contracts for further development,” King said at Modern Day Marine. “Many of them got interested in other areas an many of them got follow-on opportunities. A lot of them got the operational expertise of the individual Marine … A number of those will be prototyped for follow-on experiments and then a couple will be what we call rapid capability fielding, which will go out to the operating forces straight away.”

Col. Daniel M. Sullivan, chief of staff at the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory, said ANTX is a “growth industry.”

“It allows us to go fast,” Sullivan said at MDM. “It’s like an adrenaline shot for experimentation. Whatever happens, it is just going to continue to grow.”

Neller has already given his blessing for the tech rodeos to continue and broaden their scope. He was so pleased with the outcome of the ANTX focusing on amphibious operations that he ordered another similar event to bring in technologies specifically geared toward urban conflict. That ANTX is scheduled for next March 15 to 25 at Camp Pendleton and will include live-fire demonstrations.

“Our whole purpose behind this is to … really focus on the company and below,” King said of the upcoming technology exercise. “Our focus is to provide the guy who has to do the intimate killing, the guy who has to maneuver through that space, that urban environment … who has to breach walls, who has to be the first one in. We’d like to take away some of that problem set.”

“We don’t want the first one to go through a door to be a Marine, because he’s probably going to get shot,” he added. “We want it to be a robot or a sensor or something else. We want the ability to scan the inside of a room to know what it looks like before going in.”