The Warfighting
Lab

The Marine Corps Faces Down Future Threats.

An Environment of Innovation

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The Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory provides a dedicated environment of innovation where technologies and systems can be developed and tested to enhance the Marine Corps’ current and future warfighting capabilities.

The Warfighting Lab continues to support the very mission it was founded for—to shape tomorrow’s Corps. Its mission is made increasingly important with the changing face of warfare and the new technologies advancing every day.

“We examine concepts to try and determine if they are viable,” LtCol Charles Berry said of the role the Warfighting Lab plays. “We take pieces of gear and put it with operating forces and see what good things we can pull from that and try to figure out what negative things we can mitigate as we continually figure out how to develop the future force.” 

“These are unvetted technologies we are testing.” —LtCol Charles Berry, Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory

The Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory provides a dedicated environment of innovation where technologies and systems can be developed and tested to enhance the Marine Corps’ current and future warfighting capabilities.

The Warfighting Lab continues to support the very mission it was founded for—to shape tomorrow’s Corps. Its mission is made increasingly important with the changing face of warfare and the new technologies advancing every day.

“We examine concepts to try and determine if they are viable,” LtCol Charles Berry said of the role the Warfighting Lab plays. “We take pieces of gear and put it with operating forces and see what good things we can pull from that and try to figure out what negative things we can mitigate as we continually figure out how to develop the future force.” 

“These are unvetted technologies we are testing.” —LtCol Charles Berry, Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory

"Spot," a quadruped prototype robot, walks down a hill during a demonstration at Marine Corps Base Quantico, VA, Sept. 16, 2015. Employees of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency trained Marines from the Marine Corps Warfighting Lab how to operate “Spot.” Photo by Sgt Eric Kennan.

The Commandant’s Call

According to the 37th Commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen Robert B. Neller, capabilities such as unmanned aerial systems (UAS) and robotics, artificial intelligence and autonomous technologies provide tactical and operational advantages, and innovative ideas on how to leverage them can come from anywhere.

“We’re on our way to keeping the great capabilities of the Marine Corps and the Marine Air Ground Task Force,” Gen Neller said. “At the same time, what’s in the force is different.”

In 2016 the Warfighting Lab supported the first Commandant’s Innovation Challenge—a month-long contest open to all Marines (active and reserve), Sailors and government civilians from across the Marine Corps. Watch more here.

The purpose of the Commandant’s Innovation Challenge is to identify missions that currently require Marines to accomplish and that could be replaced by an autonomous system. Additionally, submissions must identify systems or technologies that could make Marines more effective, efficient or safe.

Challenge winners have the opportunity to directly partner with the Marine Corps Warfighting Lab to further develop their ideas into reality through prototyping, experimentation, and possibly Marine Corps-wide fielding.

According to the 37th Commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen Robert B. Neller, capabilities such as unmanned aerial systems (UAS) and robotics, artificial intelligence and autonomous technologies provide tactical and operational advantages, and innovative ideas on how to leverage them can come from anywhere.

“We’re on our way to keeping the great capabilities of the Marine Corps and the Marine Air Ground Task Force,” Gen Neller said. “At the same time, what’s in the force is different.”

In 2016 the Warfighting Lab supported the first Commandant’s Innovation Challenge—a month-long contest open to all Marines (active and reserve), Sailors and government civilians from across the Marine Corps. Watch more here.

The purpose of the Commandant’s Innovation Challenge is to identify missions that currently require Marines to accomplish and that could be replaced by an autonomous system. Additionally, submissions must identify systems or technologies that could make Marines more effective, efficient or safe.

Challenge winners have the opportunity to directly partner with the Marine Corps Warfighting Lab to further develop their ideas into reality through prototyping, experimentation, and possibly Marine Corps-wide fielding.

Testing Today’s Technology

Rather than adding another piece of equipment, many new technologies are providing another piece of information.

As Marines throughout the force have embraced the Commandant’s call for innovation, units are already experimenting with new technologies like drones and 3D printers and testing new devices during regular training exercises.

"Drones have the potential to add dozens of new capabilities, including terrain analysis, video surveillance, and unmanned resupply," said Sgt Jonathan Gillis of the Warfighting Lab said. “In the future, they may very well carry machine guns and missiles at the company or battalion level," he said. "3D printing can also help us cut weight, so we have a number of people working on using it to relieve some of the weight that infantry Marines carry around in the field."

The possibilities for drones on battlefields are a key area of interest for the Commandant, who wants to equip Marines with them sooner rather than later.

Rather than adding another piece of equipment, many new technologies are providing another piece of information.

As Marines throughout the force have embraced the Commandant’s call for innovation, units are already experimenting with new technologies like drones and 3D printers and testing new devices during regular training exercises.

"Drones have the potential to add dozens of new capabilities, including terrain analysis, video surveillance, and unmanned resupply," said Sgt Jonathan Gillis of the Warfighting Lab said. “In the future, they may very well carry machine guns and missiles at the company or battalion level," he said. "3D printing can also help us cut weight, so we have a number of people working on using it to relieve some of the weight that infantry Marines carry around in the field."

The possibilities for drones on battlefields are a key area of interest for the Commandant, who wants to equip Marines with them sooner rather than later.

Next year, my goal is that every deployed Marine infantry squad has their own quadcopter.

Gen Robert Neller

Battles Won through War Games

During the same year that the Warfighting Lab was established, it hosted the first of what would become hundreds of war games. Today war games are still conducted annually and explore issues vital to the future of the Marine Corps.

Through Futures Workshops and War Gaming, the Warfighting Lab explores trends and alternative future security environments to prepare the Marine Corps for future success. Developments in technology, energy, climate and more all have effects on the Marine Corps and are a key focus for the Warfighting Lab. 

But before these new developments can be rolled out, they must first be field-tested. War games allow Marine Corps leadership to identify which approach, technology or system is ready to be pushed out to operating forces.

While the rifle remains the standard weapon for Marines, new and future battlefield realities require technologies that have evolved with them, and the Warfighting Lab stands ready to meet the challenges of future environments. 

For more information on the United States Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory, visit http://www.mcwl.marines.mil/.

During the same year that the Warfighting Lab was established, it hosted the first of what would become hundreds of war games. Today war games are still conducted annually and explore issues vital to the future of the Marine Corps.

Through Futures Workshops and War Gaming, the Warfighting Lab explores trends and alternative future security environments to prepare the Marine Corps for future success. Developments in technology, energy, climate and more all have effects on the Marine Corps and are a key focus for the Warfighting Lab. 

But before these new developments can be rolled out, they must first be field-tested. War games allow Marine Corps leadership to identify which approach, technology or system is ready to be pushed out to operating forces.

While the rifle remains the standard weapon for Marines, new and future battlefield realities require technologies that have evolved with them, and the Warfighting Lab stands ready to meet the challenges of future environments. 

For more information on the United States Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory, visit http://www.mcwl.marines.mil/.