The Royal Marines of 3 Commando Brigade - which includes 45 Commando - took part in the Royal Navy’s largest foray into data-driven warfare.
Over the past fortnight, marines demonstrated the brainpower needed to win future wars during Exercise Information Warrior.
Using miniature helicopters, satellite and streaming technology, low-energy- use computers, live camera feeds and wireless headquarters, the men of 3 Commando Brigade tested their ability to direct a real-time raid on an old fort in Plymouth by landing craft.
Information Warrior has been run side-by-side with the twice yearly international war games the UK Armed Forces, Joint Warrior, staged in and off western Scotland.
The exercise covers the field of information warfare – artificial intelligence, cyber attacks, exploiting intelligence, surveillance of the enemy, command and control – pooling the expertise of military personnel, academics, and industry.
It was the task of Plymouth-based 30 Commando IX Group to keep the main assault groups of 3 Commando Brigade at least one step ahead of their foes.
To demonstrate what they can bring to the present-day battlefield, they set up a unique operations centre at their home in Stonehouse Barracks.
Built in three weeks and requiring 2.5 kilometres of cabling, the digital HQ featured more than 30 screens operated by personnel from all three Services, plus industry and educational experts. The whole set-up drained as much power as just seven kettles.
Nearly 450 miles away in Arbroath, an entirely wireless HQ was set up by the men of RM Condor to feed real-time information directly into the hi-tech operations cell.
It wasn’t the only feed coming in. Another outstation on Dartmoor at Okehampton Camp, and some cutting-edge cameras and minute drones, ensured 42 Commando’s storming of Victorian fortifications in Plymouth, after coming ashore on landing craft, was streamed live.
While 30 Cdo IX Gp were dealing with data, 45 Commando went FISHing (FIghting in Someone’s House) on Salisbury Plain.
The Arbroath marines were invited to join the Mercians and the RAF Regiment in testing new kit for the battlefield – everything from cutting-edge IT down to self-sterilising water bottles and a 56ft ‘Easibridge’.
Some 72 items were tested at Army Warfighting Experiment 17 (AWE17), centred on the replica village of Copehill Down, designed to teach the art of urban warfare.
45 Commando got their hands on new assault ladders, the DMM Urban Vertical Access system, the Deployable Situational Awareness system and the Black Hornet miniature helicopter.
The helicopter measures in at just ten centimetres long and weighs only 16 grammes. It feeds live imagery back to its controller and can fly up to two kilometres. Once airborne, is virtually silent and invisible to the human eye.
Combined, this technology means that the Royal Marines are, in the words of Lt Col Nik Cavill, who is in charge of 30 Cdo IX Gp, “constantly pushing the boundaries of innovation” on the battlefield.
Lt Col Cavill continued: “The lessons learned here will give the brigade options to better operate in future areas of conflict.
“Information Warrior has displayed what a digitalised operations centre can look like and the command and control it can generate.
“It’s also demonstrated that 3 Commando Brigade is well-placed to plan and deliver these innovative technologies when supported by industry and academia.”