The US Marine Corps is focused on a more diverse set of amphibious operations for future missions, with implications for the service’s training and education community. Concurrently, the simulation community is providing new products to help the service meet its shifting requirements, reports Group Editor Marty Kauchak. 

The message is clear: amphibious operations remain the US Marine Corps’ specialty and comparative advantage. Indeed, while some media observers have suggested the Marine Corps drifted from its mission specialty during the Iraq-Afghanistan era, Marine Corps Major General Richard L. Simcock II, the deputy commanding general at Marine Corps Forces, Pacific said otherwise. It is “not completely accurate to imply we must return to our amphibious roots, as one could argue we never left, especially in the Pacific. The Marine Corps devoted considerable resources to maintaining and exercising this capability even during the decade plus of war in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

With fewer mission distractions the service can focus more intently on amphibious operations in its fleet training and schoolhouses. Simcock continued, “Amphibious operations are an interconnected series of complex skills that need constant practice.” That practice is coming, in part, from more rigorous and challenging fleet exercises and similar events. [Editor’s note: see accompanying sidebar articles on Bold Alligator 2014 and the amphibious portion of RIMPAC 14.]

USMC also has a blended strategy to strengthen its learning programs. While training and education courses will be supported by enhanced technologies, curriculum innovation is also entering Marine Corps classrooms. Future training and education will permit the US’s “other sea service” to move beyond simply learning and perfecting ship-to-shore movements from 12 nm over the horizon – to more complex operations from mobile sea bases, an increased forward presence in Australia and other overseas locations, and other strategies. 

As MS&T learned at the June National Training and Simulation Association’s Training & Simulation Industry Symposium in Orlando, the Marine Corps will have few “new” S&T programs in the budget out years. Rather, the service will focus on strengthening its heritage programs. One effort is the roadmap for the Ground Range Sustainment Program. The investments will repair and upgrade existing USMC ranges throughout the Marine Corps to include: Kangaroo Flats/Mt. Bundey, Australia and Okinawa, Japan – supporting the US’s “Pacific Pivot”.

140711-M-QH615-008 MARINE CORPS BASE HAWAII (July 11, 2014) The ultra heavy-lift amphibious connector (UHAC), a prototype amphibious vehicle, heads out to sea during a Marine Corps Warfighting Experiment. The Marine Corps Warfighting Lab (MCWL) is participating in Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) Exercise 2014 testing potential future technologies, solutions and concepts to future Marine Air Ground Task Force (MAGTF) challenges. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Aaron S. Patterson/Released)
140711-M-QH615-008
MARINE CORPS BASE HAWAII (July 11, 2014) The ultra heavy-lift amphibious connector (UHAC), a prototype amphibious vehicle, heads out to sea during a Marine Corps Warfighting Experiment. The Marine Corps Warfighting Lab (MCWL) is participating in Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) Exercise 2014 testing potential future technologies, solutions and concepts to future Marine Air Ground Task Force (MAGTF) challenges. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Aaron S. Patterson/Released)

The RQ-11B Raven, RQ-12A Wasp and RQ-20A Puma make up USMC unmanned aircraft systems (UASs) weighing less than 20 lbs. [9.1kg]. They are becoming ubiquitous throughout the operating forces providing intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, and target acquisition to the warfighter on the ground.

In another instance of aligning learning to strategy, The Basic School’s (TBS) curriculum at Quantico, Virginia was evolving this summer to train Marine officers to utilize the capabilities that these UASs bring to the task force and to incorporate that into their mission planning and considerations. 

Industry Responsiveness

The simulation and training industry is responding to the service’s changing learning landscape.

As significant, US-based S&T community members are raising their profile around the globe. Brandy Castle, Cubic Defense’s senior business development manager, observed that as Marines look to expand multinational operations with US allied partners throughout the Pacific Rim, her company has the capability and experience to support joint integrated training environments for multinational training exercises. The San Diego-based company official added, “Cubic has a strong presence, as well as offices located throughout the Pacific Rim, providing air and ground combat training systems and support services.”

Cubic’s significant portfolio supporting its USMC customer includes two active programs for delivery of training systems, Instrumented Tactical Engagement Simulation Systems II (I-TESS II) and Squad Immersive Training Environment (SITE). The I-TESS II systems placed on order so far will have completed delivery as of fourth quarter of this year.

The Marines have accepted delivery of the I-TESS II system at: Camp Pendleton, Camp Le Jeune, Marine Corps Base Quantico, Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, Marine Corp Base Hawaii and Marine Corp Base Okinawa.

Saab is another brand familiar with Marine Corps training audiences. Steve Parrish, the director of business development in the Training and Simulation division of Saab Defense and Security USA, told MS&T that his company is in the last few deliveries of the Range Training System (RTS)-I Contract with Program Manager for Training Systems (PMTRASYS) and is entering the period of performance for RTS -II, the follow on contract. “For RTS-II we are the materials and targets supplier to General Dynamics,” he added.

Product Developments

Parrish further noted that Saab just completed a new mortar simulator which is reported to be “extremely realistic in tactile feel and high fidelity in appearance.” But the real training value is in a six-round rotation hub which catches the mortar round after being dropped in the tube and rotates it out of the way allowing for the next round to be dropped immediately thereafter, the training expert pointed out.

FlightSafety International's VITAL 1100 suite, uses commercial off-the-shelf hardware. Image credit: FlightSafety International
FlightSafety International's VITAL 1100 suite, uses commercial off-the-shelf hardware. Image credit: FlightSafety International

Saab is also focused on two initiatives in the next two years. “Our targets business, which has been a very successful product line- we supply high quality products and our customers are very loyal. Also we are making strides with blended training so that units can train drivers, gunners, dismounts and command and control all in the same training environment.” While the company executive acknowledged this latter training construct has always been “somewhat possible,” recent innovation in networks and wireless technology have brought it to a level of reality where Saab can connect multiple systems with much greater success and finally at a reasonable price. Of particular interest, Parrish added, “The key is teaming. Rather than try to do things all by ourselves we are welcome to team with other companies and bring the ‘best in show’ to the customer.”

Back at Cubic, Castle noted the SITE program requires delivery of weapon simulations integrated with the I-TESS II system, which rely upon cutting-edge technology for accurate placement of weapon effects on targets. “The program includes the following weapons: SMAW, TOW, JAVELIN, MK19, Claymore Mine and M107. All except for the M107 are surrogate engagement simulators, which look and feel like the real weapon. Some of them include day/night sight simulation and visual display for fall-of-shot to provide realism on the training battlefield. The first systems will be delivered April 2015,” the company executive added.

FlightSafety International, a provider of S&T crew training, advanced technology training devices, support for simulators and computer based training workstations, has operations at 15 US military bases. The company’s portfolio includes delivering training for aspiring and seasoned Marine Corps aviators in the Bell Boeing MV-22/V-22 Osprey and other aircraft.

Dan Myers, director of marketing at Visual Systems, said his company is developing, or taking advantage of, new technologies to further advance the training experience for Marines operating from the sea or from remote ground-based operating stations. For example, FlightSafety is designing systems to improve the visual acuity in simulator environments. “This includes visuals with a dynamic resolution capability that eliminates object motion artifacts. This will support future Marine Corps and the other services’ requirements for improved visual acuity, especially in areas such as targeting, search and rescue, and formation flight,” Myers said, certainly resonating well with the USMC’s expanding mission envelope.

Elsewhere, the company’s VITAL 1100 system, introduced in 2013, uses COTS hardware. “This allows us to focus our development activities entirely on what the aircrew ‘sees’ out the window. Our ability to advance the state of the art is, therefore, much more expedient. We believe this will help support the USMC mission for on-going combat readiness in a changing world,” Myers commented. Another key component of the VITAL 1100 is its physics-based simulation.

Myers also told MS&T that FlightSafety’s all-new design and advances in technology incorporated into the FlightSafety FS1000 simulator significantly enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of training.

Nidal Sammur, PhD, director of engineering, Simulation, pointed out the FS1000 simulator was designed and developed to outperform current generation flight simulators in virtually all aspects. “FlightSafety worked with representatives from aircraft manufacturers and its government and commercial customers to ensure that the new FS1000 simulator would exceed their requirements and offer unprecedented value and reliability. The design also benefitted from the experience gained by FlightSafety’s 1,800 instructors who provide more than one million hours of training each year to pilots from around the world,” he added.

FlightSafety’s Crewview glass mirror optical system enhances visual clarity and brightness while eliminating image degradation and distortion in the critical boundary areas inherent in many traditional display systems – allowing an expanded field of view up to 300 degrees by 70 degrees and other features. “Our UH-1N Flight Training Device features a seven channel visual system with a glass primary mirror with a field of view of 220 degrees by 60 degrees. This simulator also includes a seven channel scanner dome equipped to contain a gunner position in the future,” said Myers

Among other performance improvements FlightSafety is incorporating into its training devices, is an Improved Ground Reactions (SimIGR) (model). Dr. Sammur noted this model represents an enhancement to its existing Level D performance model.

SIDEBAR I

Atlantic Perspective: Bold Alligator ’14 Preview

Exercise Bold Alligator will be the largest amphibious exercise conducted along the Eastern US seaboard in 2014 with training locations from Virginia to Florida. The event will serve as a capstone event for the Navy’s Air-Sea Battle and the Marine Corps’ Expeditionary Force 21 concept. 1st Lt. John Parry, the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade (MEB) Public Affairs officer, pointed out the exercise scenario will reflect a complex and uncertain operational environment, to provide the Marines and sailors of 2nd MEB, Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG) 2 and partner nations with the opportunity to operate and exercise command and control of a Marine Air Ground Task Force.

Bold Alligator 2014 will consist of three phases according to Parry.

Phase I is the detailed planning phase from September 3-October 2. Phase II is scheduled for October 28-November 1 with the initial structuring of forces off the US East Coast under the fly-in command element (FICE), which is composed of the Navy’s Expeditionary Strike Group 2 and the Marines’ 2nd MEB. Phase III is the continued establishment of forces and will occur from November1-7. During this final phase, the FICE will become a Forward (FWD) Command element, and main subordinate elements will grow in size and capability.

The 2014 Bold Alligator continues to refocus the Navy-Marine Corps team on crisis response. “We are reshaping our training to operate in an environment where forces respond more rapidly by addressing requirements as they arrive on-scene allowing engagement of multiple, dispersed objectives during crisis response. As such, we are reinforcing our capability to operate from a sea base in order to provide mobile and flexible options to support combatant commander requirements in a range of scenarios,” LCDR Candice Tresch, the public affairs officer at ESG 2, told MS&T.

Beyond a Large Amphibious Assault

In this fourth Bold Alligator exercise, there will be significant “firsts” for the training audience.

The 2014 BA is the first time the training audience will move past the typical large amphibious assault to a scenario and training that involve the aggregation of forward deployed forces with follow-on forces in response to a crisis.

Additionally, participants will employ the FICE concept and operate with a Joint High Speed Vessel.

BA ’14 will be conducted throughout the live-virtual-constructive training domains.

Eighteen US and three coalition ships were scheduled to get underway to support the live portion. Carrier Strike Group 8 will make up the majority of the “virtual foot print” for BA-14, exercising via Battle Force Tactical Trainer from a shore-based facility. In addition, a constructed adversary will be represented through White Cell injects from Carrier Strike Group 4 (formerly Commander Strike Force Training Atlantic).

BA14 planners expect forces or personnel, though subject to change, from Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Mexico, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Peru, Spain, Sweden, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the US.

SIDEBAR II

Pacific Perspective: RIMPAC ’14 Summary

RIMPAC 2014 was conducted June 26 through August 1 on Eastern and Mid-Pacific training venues. Twenty-two nations, 49 surface ships, 6 submarines, and more than 200 aircraft and 25,000 personnel participated. The exercise’s dedicated amphibious forces included: US 3rd Marine Regiment and 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment; company of 3rd Battalion of Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry; Charlie Company of 5th Royal Australian Regiment; platoon from Korps Marinir of Indonesia; platoon from Republic of Korea Marine Corps; platoon from the Royal Tongan Marines; and a platoon from Mexican Naval Infantry Force.

The rigorous amphibious warfare scenario used the Hawaiian Islands as a backdrop. The training exercises allowed the international, naval-Marine training audience to exercise its amphibious capabilities in non-combatant evacuation operations, humanitarian assistance/disaster response (HA/DR), amphibious raids, assaults, and landings (permissive and non-permissive) and other events.

A Case for Multinational Training

Major General Richard L. Simcock II, the deputy commanding general, Marine Corps Forces, Pacific, told MS&T on July 24 the RIMPAC scenario permitted his service and its US and overseas partners to work through a series of relatively simple to more difficult planning exercises and movements. “An obvious but often overlooked aspect of the RIMPAC amphibious exercises is the interaction between ground forces and naval forces. This is indispensable to successful amphibious operations, but is easily taken for granted. The efficient, symbiotic, relationship between the US Marines and sailors on display during RIMPAC is eye-opener for some of our partners, and hopefully gives them and their respective navies something to strive for.”

The US Marine Corps two-star general further noted RIMPAC training is mutually beneficial “as we [the US] also benefit from training with our allies and partners. Amphibious training and the ability to conduct complex joint/combined operations - especially in a littoral environment - builds confidence, not least in one's ability to defend one self. Multilateral training even serves as a 'linking mechanism' - creating a number of practical relationships and closer bonds between quite different militaries - and even a degree of interoperability. An amphibious exercise like RIMPAC's does more than just add a tactical capability. Rather, it can have a strategic effect, a ‘game-changer’ if you will, in terms of building and strengthening ties between partners and allies. Capable and willing nations cooperating in the sphere of amphibious operations sends an important message.”

Amphibious training “firsts” for RIMPAC ‘14 included: Japanese Ground Self Defense Force involvement with the landing component; USMC Warfighting Lab's advanced warfighting technology that was included into the training package – the LS3 (robotic mule) and the UHAC (Ultra heavy-lift amphibious connector); and other milestones.

Simcock noted that one looks forward to future RIMPACs with an even more robust amphibious portion in which even more partner nations participate. “Indeed, in the future a 'Pacific' version of our Bold Alligator amphibious exercise held on the US's East Coast might be feasible.”