Young engineers' visions for the Royal Marines of 2050 include "invisible" commandos
Britain's armed forces has taken a look into the future through a team of young engineering graduates from the UK Naval Engineering Science and Technology forum (UKNEST) who have offered their predictions of what the Royal Marines will look like in 2050. Drawing on extrapolations of present technological trends, they foresee the elite combat arm of the Royal Navy using a suite of exotic gear, including bionic exoskeletons and chameleon-like camouflage that makes commandos "invisible."
Making predictions about the super soldier of tomorrow may seem like a bit of self-indulgent science fiction writing, but it does have a number of very serious goals. For one thing, it has the obvious one of sparking development of new military systems that will be needed in the years to come.
But it can also give planners and politicians a heads up about what may be coming, so they can prepare beforehand, even if they have no plans to develop such things themselves. In addition, it can be a powerful recruiting tool for not only future Marines, but also engineers by showing them that their job won't all be designing USB plugs and hair dryers.
For the Royal Marines of 2050, a group of young engineers from various leading defense, technology, and engineering firms was taken to the Commandos’ Training Centre at Lympstone near Exeter to learn how the Royal Marines train and operate. They were then told to come up with new commando kit based around the scenario of a Royal Marine assault on an enemy clifftop missile site from a support ship well over the horizon. And from what they came up with, it's clear that they took the bit between the teeth and ran with it.
Operating from the supercarrier HMS Queen Elizabeth, the Royal Marine unit of 2050 will be equipped with special combat exoskeleton suits that will not only allow them to carry heavy loads and perform superhuman feats, but will also have built-in bio-monitors and an active chameleon skin that makes them seamlessly blend into the background – effectively, making them invisible. If that isn't enough, the Marines will also be able to project holographic decoys to confuse the enemy.
Meanwhile, their Bergen rucksacks will be lighter and stronger with incorporated motion dampers to make them less unwieldy, and they'll be attached to the exoskeleton by magnetic links, so they'll be easy to don and remove. Each Marine will also have his or her own personal drone to provide intelligence direct to their helmet, which is equipped with artificial intelligence and special visors or contact lenses that can display data or use heat signatures to distinguish combatants from civilians.
Even the gloves and boots will be high tech. The footwear will have piezoelectric devices embedded in them to convert and store energy as the Marines walk. When climbing cliffs, the gloves and boots can be electrically charged to make them sticky with extra-wide palms and soles for better contact with surfaces.
If electric sticky pads are too slow and the cliff is small enough, the Marines will be able to opt for using silent micro-turbine jets to fly short distances or hop over obstacles and minefields.
For going on the mission, the Marines will use Ekranoplan flying wings instead of landing craft. These are ground-effect vehicles that look like airplanes, but actually fly at extremely low altitude on a cushion of air trapped between the aircraft and the ground, allowing it to fly under the radar at 300 knots (345 mph, 560 km/h) even with heavy loads before switching to low speed for a silent landing using advanced stealth and camouflage technology. The Ekranplans will be protected by heavily armed escort drones connected by a neural network and "grunt" drones that use ion engines to maneuver and can both act as transports and laser gun platforms for covering fire.
If the Marines need resupply or reinforcements, both gear and troops can be sent at supersonic speed using "sycamore" pods that are large enough to hold one person and kit. These can be fired from electromagnetic rail guns at a range of 100 mi (160 km), then descend safely using two sets of contra-rotating vanes that act like a parachute and recapture energy with a built-in dynamo.
If food and water runs low, the Marines will have a 3D printer unit that can both distill water and turn the local flora and fauna into edible meals. It will even be able to print out simple replacement parts and tools. The sleeping mats are also a bit sci fi as they do triple duty with their solar panels and 80-in (200 -cm) tactical display screens.
As to weapons, aside from having instant call on their ship's rail guns and a variety of armed drones, the Marines will have rifles and pistols that incorporate both conventional rounds and lasers – both targeted through the visor display using target motion analysis algorithms for much faster and accurate fire.
"The Marines form over 40 per cent of Britain’s special forces and are seen as the tip of the spear," says Major General Matt Holmes, Commandant General Royal Marines. "Our objective has been to envisage radical capabilities to make us more agile and lethal, while being able to operate in a complex digital and networked future environment. We can’t say how much or how quickly the reality of these visions will come to fruition. But what we can say is that if only 20 percent of these ideas come to reality, then we will be at the cutting edge of tomorrow’s technology."
The predictions of the Royal Marines of 2050 were made into the short video below and some of the technology will be on display next month at the 2019 DSEi defense and security show in London.
Source: Royal Navy