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Flying wings and invisible suits: Marines reveal the equipment of the future | Science & Tech News

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Depending on your age, you might be forgiven for wondering why the Sky News website is adorned with shots from the cult classic film Starship Troopers – or a futuristic entry in the Call Of Duty video game series.

But believe it or not, these images showcasing technological marvels such as exo-skeleton battle suits and holographic soldiers may one day be representative of real-life war.

This is the futuristic vision of the Royal Marines as dreamed up by some of the brightest young engineers in Britain, who have generated ideas previously confined to the realm of science fiction.

Engineers were asked to base their designs on a futuristic raid scenario
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Engineers were asked to base their designs on a futuristic raid scenario

“It’s a catalyst to future thinking, ‘visioneering’ is what we call it – it’s the physical manifestation of radical ideas,” the man behind the project, Royal Navy Captain Jeremy Greaves, told Sky News.

“Taking a sideways look at things is how real progress is made and we want to think of new ways we can influence and dominate the battlefield.”

Helmets sporting displays providing troops with intelligence, health and fitness details, and portable 3D printers capable of producing food in the field, sound like the work of George Lucas or HG Wells.

They in fact came from a brainstorming session at Lympstone called Story Of A Raid, led by Major Matt Perks and hosting impressive minds such as that of Eirini Trivyza.

The engineering graduate and naval architect, who works for Babcock International, told Sky News it would be foolish to discount such advanced ideas as nothing more than pure fantasy.

The brainstorming session took place at a Royal Marines training centre in Lympstone
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The brainstorming session took place at a Royal Marines training centre in Lympstone

“When does science fiction become science fact – the technology in Star Trek from 40 years ago is now embedded in our lives in our phones and watches,” she said.

“We are all stimulated by what we see in science fiction, but we are motivated by the tools we will have in the future to make that science fact.”

Her favourite concept to come out of the session is the idea of “ghost marines” – projections that could be used to infiltrate enemy lines and act as decoys for marines who are attacking from a different angle.

But there are plenty of other advanced armour, weaponry and gadgets to have come out of the session.

Engineers were given a glimpse of life as a marine before they got to work on their futuristic designs
Image:
Engineers were given a glimpse of life as a marine before they got to work on their futuristic designs

ARMOUR

Human Universal Load Carrier

An exo-skeleton made from lightweight carbon fibre, with a weight-bearing frame that allows marines to carry heavy loads and withstand forces thousands of times greater than its own weight.

Combat Skin

This synthetic polymer suit would be capable of providing protection equivalent to modern body armour, as well as regulating temperature in extreme conditions and allowing marines to camouflage into their surroundings.

The potential Royal Marines soldiers of the future
Image:
The potential Royal Marines soldiers of the future

Battlefield Perception Helmet

This piece of hi-tech headgear comes equipped with a visor display showing tactical overlays, squad health, battle intelligence and other useful info.

Energy Harvesting Boots

These sturdy and durable command boots will contain piezoelectric materials to harvest the motion of a marine and convert it into energy to power other pieces of armour and equipment.

Magnetic backpacks could be part of future loadouts
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Magnetic backpacks could be part of future loadouts

EQUIPMENT

Magnetic Bergen Rucksack

This updated version of the classic Royal Marine Bergen rucksack will attach magnetically to the combat suit, and will reduce strain and shock when being carried on harsh terrain.

Multi-role Roll Mat

Another upgrade on something used on the battlefields of today, this mat will have solar panels to power equipment, and flexible LEDs to act as a display screen for tactical briefings.

Advanced roll mats that sport flexible LED screens
Image:
Advanced roll mats that sport flexible LED screens

Portable 3D Printer

Amazingly, future 3D printers will not only be portable but also capable of manufacturing food on demand.

Gecko Unit

This will integrate with the combat suit, providing webbed, oversized globes and feet with an electric charge so that marines can scale any surface – plus a short-range flight attachment so that they can soar over minefields.

This portable 3D printer could manufacture food on the battlefield
Image:
This portable 3D printer could manufacture food on the battlefield

WEAPONS AND VEHICLES

Dual Mode Rifle

This will use both conventional rounds of ammunition and directed energy (yes, it is a laser), and will be linked to the visor display so that marines can shoot with increased accuracy.

Ekranoplan Landing Craft

This stealthy vehicle willow huge speeds with low drag and minimal power, transforming the way troops are brought ashore and providing a boost to travel times that have not improved significantly since the Second World War.

Marines could one day be deployed via super fast landing crafts
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Marines could one day be deployed via super fast landing crafts

The brainstorming session encouraged participants to come up with ideas for each stage of what a military raid might look like in the decades ahead, including “kitting up”, “the intelligence brief” and “the insertion”.

Major Perks told Sky News he wanted the young engineers to have some grounding in the career of a marine before they went about designing their futuristic equipment.

“The Royal Marines don’t have all the answers and as a constantly evolving organisation, which is always open to new ideas, this seemed like a no-brainer to get some new ideas,” he said.

“We didn’t want any constraints to be put on the team but wanted them to understand what we did before they came up with these fantastic ideas.”

Marines of the future scaling a wall thanks to their advanced combat suits
Image:
Marines of the future scaling a wall thanks to their advanced combat suits

Captain Greaves said the creativity on show reflected how technology is “coming on at such a rapid rate”, and he is sure the Royal Marines are capable of providing soldiers “with the battle-winning edge that they want”.

But he said the project was also about “inspiring the next generation”.

He told Sky News that it was a “competitive environment” to attract young talent and the Royal Marines needed to do all they could to attract the best and brightest minds.

“We’ve got the big toys and it’s a really interesting job that provides really worthwhile, interesting, fascinating and different career options for all sorts of people, men and women,” he said.

“Because we operate out of the limelight, it’s difficult for people to understand what the armed forces do, and having something like this is pretty cool.

“We want young people to have a ‘wow, that’s cool’ moment – that can only be a good thing.”

How preparation for deployment might look in the decades ahead
Image:
How preparation for deployment might look in the decades ahead

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 the Royal Marines of today, as well as other innovations, will also be on display at the annual DSEi defence and security show at Excel London from 10 to 13 September.

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