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The Stern Landing Vessel, a modified oil-rig industry off-shore support vessel, prepares to drop its ramp onto the beach in order to load cargo as part of Project Convergence Capstone 4, Feb. 22, 2024 at the Del Mar Boat Basin, Camp Pendleton, CA. The Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory contracted the SLV to experiment with maneuver and sustainment options for Stand-In Forces to inform the development of the Medium Landing Ship (LSM). PC-C4 is an Army-hosted, all-Service and multinational experiment. During PC-C4, the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory tested new technologies and capabilities and emerging concepts, including the multi-domain corridor. Marine Corps participation in PC-C4 supported Force Design initiatives, integrated Joint force and coalition capabilities into experimentation, and demonstrated the Marine Corps' commitment to the Joint Warfighting Concept. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Trent Henry)

Photo by Cpl. Trent Henry

Marines drive innovation, collaboration aboard Camp Pendleton for Army’s PC-C4

19 Mar 2024 | Johannes Schmidt Marine Corps Systems Command

 

Introduction

In response to the 2018 National Defense Strategy's warning that peer adversaries are actively challenging the established global order, the Marine Corps initiated a monumental transition from its conventional land-based operations toward a concentrated emphasis on naval expeditionary capabilities — particularly within contested littoral regions.

This pivot — encapsulated in Force Design — has led to a comprehensive strategic overhaul of the world’s premier fighting force. So far, this has resulted in the creation of a more agile and technologically sophisticated Corps, capable of operating effectively in contested, littoral environments — with an emphasis on fostering unmatched interoperability with allied and joint force partners.

This 21st-century force in readiness — which emphasizes rigorous testing, wargaming, and experimentation of developed concepts — has been on full display throughout the US Army’s Project Convergence Capstone 4 (PC-C4), which is being held across various locations — including Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, CA — between February 23 and March 20, 2024.

“PC-C4 is a waypoint along the service’s campaign of experimentation. What was different with this experiment was an increase in scale and complexity, all while propelling rapid advancements in technology alongside combined and joint forces,” said Col Mike Carroll, Director of the Marine Corps Warfighting Lab’s Experiment Division. “We are committed to capturing the lessons observed and excited for future opportunities to experiment by, with, and through the Fleet Marine Force. Our focus remains squarely on addressing the pacing threat, increasing interoperability, and ensuring the warfighter's needs are at the forefront of our efforts.”

Project Convergence

PC-C4, a landmark joint and multinational military experiment hosted by the US Army’s Future’s Command, is dedicated to advancing and integrating cutting-edge defense capabilities to bolster the effectiveness of joint and allied forces — specifically focusing on experimenting with advanced air and missile defense systems and leveraging sensor capabilities from drones and manned aircraft for more effective force protection and targeting.

Throughout the course of PC-C4, the Corps demonstrated its strategic foresight and technological prowess by showcasing groundbreaking advancements in the development of littoral maneuver capabilities to sustain Stand-In Forces. These experiments, conducted during the alongside Joint Force and international partners, are integral to achieving the targets outlined in Force Design and enhance the U.S. and its allies’ and partners’ readiness, especially when considering the challenges posed by contested logistics.

Furthermore, the Corps has helped advance the Department of Defense’s combined joint all-domain command-and-control initiative, or CJADC2, efforts by actively contributing to the creation of temporal dominance in contested environments. Through initiatives like Project DYNAMIS and the deployment of Family of Integrated Targeting Cells, or FITC, the Marine Corps has enhanced communication and sensor capabilities, facilitating the integration of fires and the closing of kill webs within the combined/joint force structure.

The Experiment

The Marine Corps’ efforts related to the campaign of learning were evident between February 23 and March 1 at the Del Mar Boat Basin aboard Camp Pendleton. There, the Marine Corps Warfighting Lab, or MCWL, worked through two use cases as part of PC-C4, one covering integrated fires and one covering contested logistics. Both supported experimentation in creating a Multi-Domain Corridor, wherein combined and joint kinetic and non-kinetic effects create a temporal superiority in all domains to enable littoral maneuver and sustainment. The Multi-Domain Corridor increases the survivability of the Stand-In Force by allowing for movement of forces and supplies for a period of time through specific littoral regions.

MCWL continued testing with the experimental 254- SLV — a capability poised to significantly enhance warfighter lethality and survivability along the global littorals through its capabilities as a maneuver, mobility and sustainment platform and as one interim solution until the forthcoming Navy Medium Landing Ship, or LSM, makes its way through the acquisition process.

This initial week-long testing event was designed to inform operational concepts and future requirements for the LSM. Aligned with Force Design's strategic emphasis on distributed operations, this cutting-edge landing craft is set to extend the Corps' strategic reach and reinforce its presence in maritime environments critical to safeguarding American and allied interests worldwide. The testing will ultimately allow the acquisition community to assess the vessel’s actual capabilities, an important step in determining future fielding requirements.

The LSM, as currently envisioned, signifies a crucial advancement in the Corps’ strategic return to global littoral operations, enabling the transportation of Marines, vehicles, and various other forms of sustainment from ship to shore within contested environments.

Stern Landing Vessel at Project Convergence Capstone 4 Photo by Lance Cpl. Mhecaela Watts
A Joint Light Tactical Vehicle drives onto the Stern Landing Vessel at the Del mar Boat Basin at Camp Pendleton, CA., during Project Convergence Capstone 4. The Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory contracted the SLV to experiment with maneuver and sustainment options for Stand-In Forces to inform the development of the Medium Landing Ship (LSM). PC-C4 is an Army-hosted, all-Service and multinational experiment. During PC-C4, the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory tested new technologies and capabilities and emerging concepts, including the multi-domain corridor. Marine Corps participation in PC-C4 supported Force Design initiatives, integrated Joint force and coalition capabilities into experimentation, and demonstrated the Marine Corps' commitment to the Joint Warfighting Concept. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Mhecaela Watts)

During PC-C4, pairing the SLV, and the Autonomous Low-Profile Vessel, or ALPV, a semi-submersible craft designed to support cargo, proved a viable alternative for moving supplies through coastal regions. And, incorporating the TRV-150 logistics drone for ship to shore and shore to delivery opened the aperture of possibilities for sustainment.

In addition, MCWL included experiments at the boat basin with the Multi-Mission Reconnaissance Craft, or MMRC, a watercraft designed to insert and extract dismounted teams and conduct reconnaissance, surveillance, and target acquisition on the water to fill gaps in sensor coverage created by the littoral operating area and extend the reach of the sensor web.

“The experimentation we’re doing is based on contested logistics and maritime sustainment in a contested environment,” said Maj. Dan Greenlee, PC-C4 Contested Logistics Use Case Lead for MCWL. “The limited technical assessment will inform how we utilize the learning points accumulated throughout the week, helping us understand both capabilities and limitations.”

Interoperability at Play

While key capabilities were rigorously evaluated during PC-C4, the collaboration between joint forces and international partners emerged as a key success. As Russia and China continue to challenge Western interests across the globe, the National Defense Strategy emphasizes integrated deterrence, highlighting the need for strengthened partnerships with American allies and partners.

For this reason, foreign participation throughout PC-C4 — including service members from the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, France, Japan, and Sweden — is essential to ensure future readiness.

Yet, while it is true that our partners can learn a great deal from the Corps, the benefits of joint operations are ultimately mutual. To make this point, there is, perhaps, no better example than Sweden — an ancient seafaring nation that finally joined NATO after two years of battling legislative red tape.

Col. Adam Camel, commander of Sweden’s 1st Marine Regiment, excited at his nation’s ascension into the ranks of NATO, was quick to express enthusiasm for the opportunity to collaborate with American and other international partners at PCC4 — while also recognizing his nation's extensive history as a littoral force along the Baltic Sea.

"We are pleased to participate in PC-C4 alongside our American and (future) NATO allies,” said Camel. “We acknowledge that we have much to learn from our international partners, but it is also true that we have a great deal of knowledge to share, too. Collaboration is what will continue to make us strong as we face collective threats together.”

Founded under King Gustav I in 1522, the Swedish navy is one of the oldest continuously serving navies in the world and has maintained control over littoral regions in the Baltic Sea for over 500 years.

Ultimately, the Marine Corps' participation in PC-C4 exemplifies its commitment to technological advancement, strategic foresight, and international collaboration. Through groundbreaking experiments and partnerships, the Corps has showcased its ability to innovate in the face of evolving threats, particularly in the contested global littorals. As demonstrated by the involvement of international partners, the exchange of knowledge and expertise is reciprocal, reinforcing the importance of collaborative efforts in ensuring collective security and readiness for future challenges. As we prepare to face our adversaries on the future battlefield, the Marine Corps stands resolute in its mission to confront emerging threats with agility, innovation, and unified strength — no matter the clime or place.


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