Sometimes, as the enemy gets lower-tech, counter-efforts require a technological step up. Such was the case when insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan found that their improvised explosive devices were easily discovered with metal detectors, and so they regressed to explosives made with wood and plastic. In response, the Marine Corps Warfighting Lab partnered with private industry to field detectors that sense non-magnetic metals, or use radar to spot buried items.
These were among the many items on display at the Clubs at Quantico on Tuesday morning, as MCWL, along with the Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Directorate and Marine Corps Systems Command — all located aboard Marine Corps Base Quantico — showed off some of the Department of Defense’s most cutting-edge technology for two of Virginia’s elected representatives.
U.S. Rep. and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (7th-Va.) and State Sen. Bryce Reeves (17th) dropped in for a look at the latest technology, including communications, expeditionary medicine, portable solar power, unmanned ground and air systems, and non-lethal crowd and vehicle deterrents.
While the MCWL’s Expeditionary Medicine Branch is working to make field-ready a remote patient monitor, first developed privately for marketing to the “yacht crowd,” its aviation branch has worked with a private contractor to develop a propane fuel cell and hybrid battery that can keep an unmanned aerial system in the air for up to six hours.
Brig. Gen. Mark Wise, MCWL commanding general, explained to the two officials how the lab is working with industry to develop sensors that would allow unmanned ground vehicles to analyze the visual spectrum to determine whether or not they can plow through an obstacle.
“We’re getting very close,” he said.
MCWL identifies the current and future needs of warfighters and the technologies with the potential to meet them, and then develops and evaluates these products with experimentation, wargaming and other assessments, usually in partnership with private companies.
“It is phenomenal, and it is like a [research and development] department, not just for the Marine Corps but for the entire Department of Defense,” Cantor said, adding that during restrictive budget times, Congress is “looking for where you’re doing so much more, saving lives, with less.”
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