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Young engineers design "invisible commandos"

22 August 2019
A futuristic vision of the Royal Marines has been dreamed up by Britain’s best and brightest young engineers.

Asked to harness present and future technology to imagine how the Royal Navy’s elite troops might go into action in the future, the engineers designed bionic ‘invisible’ commandos carried into battle on silent ‘flying wings’ while hologram decoys distract an enemy pounded by rail and laser guns.

Young engineering graduates from the UK Naval Engineering Science and Technology forum (UKNEST), representing nearly a dozen leading defence, technology and engineering firms, were asked to plan a mid-21st Century assault by Royal Marines on an enemy missile site perched on a clifftop.

They came up with a string of ideas – many previously confined to the realm of science fiction:

  • Exo-skeleton suits covered by a chameleon-like skin allowing wearers to perform super-human feats, such as scaling cliffs effortlessly, and blend with the environment
  • Ekranoplan ‘flying wings’ replacing landing craft, silently skimming across the waves at hundreds of miles an hour
  • ‘Holographic Marines’ to decoy the enemy
  • Helmets with displays providing Marines with the latest intelligence, battlefield info and details of a squad’s health and fitness levels
  • Small intelligence drones which feed the latest information direct to commandos’ hi-tech helmets
  • Larger ‘grunt’ drones armed with laser guns providing fire power or dropping ammunition, supplies and even small vehicles
  • Electro-magnetic rail guns on ships firing Marines in special pods to land covertly behind enemy lines
  • Boots which harvest energy as the commandos move to power radios and other equipment
  • Rucksacks attached using magnets and fitted with energy damping to reduce the burden when marching
  • Portable 3D printers producing food in the field
  • Sleeping mats which can double up as 80in tactical display screens or solar panels to power hi-tech kit

The graduates spent a day at the Commandos’ Training Centre at Lympstone near Exeter to understand what it takes to become a Royal Marine, some of the current equipment used and the challenges faced on real-life operations.

The engineers were then given the raid scenario and thrashed out ideas, looking at what troops would be equipped with, how to get them ashore from ships over the horizon, how the Marines would neutralise a protected target, how they might protect themselves and distract the enemy.

Graduate Chad Swaby came up with the idea of contact lenses with thermal imaging ability and artificial intelligence which can differentiate between civilians, enemy soldiers and hostages – from the way they move.

"We can use that information to let Royal Marines know who they need to target and who they need to save," he added.

"The whole event has been a great opportunity for us to see what commandos do, what they have to go through. It’s helped me to understand what I need to give the marines to help them succeed on a mission."

The ideas and equipment the engineers came up with have been incorporated in a short film depicting how the raid on the missile battery might be carried out.

Some of the tech being tested by today’s Royal Marines as well as other innovations will be on show at next month's DSEi defence and security show in London.

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