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Twentynine Palms, California
Marine Air Ground Task Force Training Command and Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center
Photo Information

U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Jackson Dake, a Monroe, Washington native, an infantry Marine with 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, 7th Marine Regiment (REIN), uses a Radio Agile Integrated Device to command a Mission Master unmanned ground vehicle during Exercise Apollo Shield at Marine Corps Air-Ground Combat Center, Twentynine Palms, California, Oct. 17, 2023. The Combat Center provides a training facility capable of truly testing the equipment and it is home to the infantry battalion experiment 2030, the first unit to receive the equipment tested by Marine Corps Warfighting Lab. The RAID allows Marines to control multiple unmanned vehicles at once, reducing the requirement of drone operators and allowing for unified control over up to 4 different drones at once. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Jonathan Willcox)

Photo by Sgt. Makayla Elizalde

The Combat Center hosts unmanned force-on-force Exercise Apollo Shield for IBX30

9 Nov 2023 | Sgt. Makayla Elizalde Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms

Marine Corps Air-Ground Combat Center, Twentynine Palms, California, continues to assist in paving the way for Marine Corps modernization by hosting Exercise Apollo Shield, throughout the month of October.

Joint Training Exercise Apollo Shield represents the peak of the Marine Corps Warfighting Lab's year-long, crawl-walk-run initiative to assess equipment capabilities and refine tactics, techniques, and procedures focusing on the use of Unmanned Systems (UxS). The Combat Center boasts unique training facilities ideal for equipment testing. U.S. Marine Corps Maj. Steven Atkinson, Robotics and Autonomy Branch Head, Science and Technology division of MCWL, explained that MCAGCC hosts the Infantry Battalion Experiment 2030, 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment (REIN), 7th Marine Regiment, the first unit to be outfitted with the groundbreaking equipment tested by MCWL.

IBX-30 is a deliberate and iterative Service-level campaign plan designed to experiment with three different battalion staff constructs to assess the ideal makeup for the infantry battalion of the future. MCWL, Futures Directorate conducts deliberate and iterative experiments with the three designated battalions on specific warfighting functions. Experiment focus areas include enhanced command and control, sensing, lethality, and sustainment to refine the design of the Infantry Battalion of 2030.

“IBX-30 brings the Marine Corps to the forefront of innovation,” said U.S. Marine Corps Capt. John Rees, company commander for Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment. “By pushing MAGTF and Battalion level assets to the company level it has increased the lethality, area of influence, and enabled Marines to solve highly complex problems in a vastly distributed and austere environment.”

Rees went on to say, “In addition, the access to higher echelon assets at lower levels has empowered the noncommissioned officer Corps. The handiwork and dedication of the Marines of 3rd Battalion, 4th Marines, will help set the groundwork for continued refinements and improvements to Force Design 2030.”

On October 21, 2023, MCWL conducted an unmanned logistics convoy using multiple autonomous unmanned ground vehicles to demonstrate the advanced autonomous capability of tactical vehicles and their valuable application on the battlefield. The MRZR, a lightweight tactical vehicle, and Mission Master, an unmanned ground vehicle, conducted an autonomous unmanned convoy to execute several logistical movements throughout the training area. Unmanned convoys remove the burden on manpower commitment and a high-risk mission set from commanders.

“The success of the unmanned logistics convoy during Apollo Shield represents a pivotal stride in the Marine Corps' pursuit of modernizing warfare,” said Atkinson. “These autonomous systems, combined with the integration of tools like the Radio Agile Integrated Device plate, not only mitigates risks to the Marines, but also amplifies our force's ability to respond to multifaceted operational demands rapidly and efficiently.

“It's about seamlessly fusing the strengths of technology with the unmatched skills of our Marines to dominate the battlespace.”

The RAID Plate is a groundbreaking tool that permits Marines to simultaneously oversee and control several UxS, including loitering munitions, with a single worn device, enhancing battlefield efficiency. Notably, it also features the capability to integrate third-party Artificial Intelligence solutions, increasing its versatility and ensuring our forces remain at the forefront of technological advancements.

“Exercise Apollo Shield was an integral first step for IBX-30 experimentation for 3rd Battalion, 4th Marines,” mentioned Rees. “This exercise provided a glimpse of how the future infantry companies will fight. The use of unmanned and autonomous vehicles provides capabilities and options to the company commander to increase combat survivability.

“In addition, the ability to operate UAS on a single interface and push full motion video and position, location, and information to the squad and fireteam increases information which reduces decision-making time.”

With the new threat of UxS and evolving warfare now more than ever is it important that we continue modernization as a Marine Corps.
Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms