Engineers, technologists and operators served as part of a dynamic development team throughout the Ship to Shore Maneuver Exploration and Experimentation (S2ME2) Advanced Naval Technology Exercise (ANTX) 2017 at Camp Pendleton, April 17-28.
Teams from the offices of the Deputy Commandant of Combat Development and Integration (CD&I), and the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development, Test and Evaluation (DASN RDT&E), embarked on an innovative effort through S2ME2 ANTX 2017 by integrating operational planners with the Naval Research and Development Establishment (NR&DE), industry and academia. Their contributions prior to and during the exercise helped to develop technologies and new approaches to operating in contested littoral environments. The exercise provided an opportunity for unmanned systems and new technologies to not only be tested, but demonstrate how to potentially revolutionize amphibious operations in the 21st century.
A total of 23 U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps reservists supported the exercise, including six from the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command (SPAWAR), alongside active duty military and civilian counterparts.
Cmdr. Daniel Mirelez served as the SPAWAR reserve program team lead during the exercise and stated that S2ME2 ANTX 2017 provided a unique opportunity to test numerous unmanned systems in a new environment with diverse mission sets.
“Throughout the exercise, SPAWAR reservists supported the Cooperative Unmanned Systems Hydrographic Survey Mission, also known as ‘CUSHSM,’” said Mirelez. “We were able to test existing technology by taking data and intelligence from the [simulated] battlefield and push this information to the warfighter in real time through the use of multiple platforms and domains. Unmanned systems tested and evaluated during the exercise included surface, air and subsurface vehicles. Through this process, we were able to refine the concept of operations, to some extent, for warfighters who would be using unmanned systems, such as Marines, coming ashore during an amphibious beach assault.”
Mirelez explained that the majority of the SPAWAR reservists assisted with the launch and recovery of the unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), as well as the UAV control systems, during the exercise.
“As part of the SPAWAR reserve unit, we typically work closely with the SPAWAR Systems Center Pacific Unmanned Maritime Vehicle Lab and take the UAV lead during these types of evolutions,” said Mirelez.
The main UAV operated by SPAWAR reservists during S2ME2 ANTX 2017 was the Vapor 55 helicopter.
Lt. Cmdr. Tom McDermott, SPAWAR reservist, explained that Vapor 55 served as a conduit of information during a multitude of exercise scenarios because the vehicle carried radios designed to relay data from other platforms to operators.
“Vapor’s role was to serve in a surveillance capacity,” said McDermott. “It carried a radio, so that we could extract data and information quickly from an unmanned underwater vehicle. We could then relay these details back to the operators on land who were in control of the UUV. It was quite impressive to witness how the unmanned vehicles communicated with the operators and then how the information received evolved into a response.”
McDermott emphasized that serving as a reservist continues to provide him with unique experiences, especially with unmanned systems.
“I bring both a tactical and operational level of warfare experience,” said McDermott. “I flew a Scan Eagle in Iraq for a year and, prior to being assigned to SPAWAR, I served three years with a command at the command-and-control level. Therefore, I am familiar with both sides of the equation that Vapor 55 is looking to bridge.”
Michael Buntin, a Vapor 55 programmer assigned to the SSC Pacific UMV Lab, described his involvement with the reservists during the exercise and how teamwork always plays a key role in success.
“For the exercise, I was primarily responsible for the radios and software that runs on the Vapor,” said Buntin. “I made sure that Vapor was effectively operating and doing what it was supposed to do during and after the mission. I also worked with the SPAWAR reserve team to create and analyze Vapor’s logs in order to see what the vehicle accomplished and what we can do to improve its operations in the future.”
As a civilian who constantly works with unmanned systems, Buntin expressed his sincere gratitude for the reservists’ attentiveness and expertise.
“The reservists have been great,” said Buntin. “They have supported several exercises in the past where the UMV Lab showcases its technologies and always dive right in to tackle a problem. Something like this exercise, in my opinion, could not have been pulled off without them.”
Cmdr. Bryant ‘Bucket’ Brockett, an activated reservist with Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division in China Lake, served as the officer in charge for S2ME2 ANTX 2017 air operations. In his civilian career, Brockett serves as the SSC Pacific Master Black Belt Lean Six Sigma and understands how reservists help fill essential personnel gaps in exercises and real world events.v“The Navy and Marine Corps reservists here stood duty, served as range safety officers, operated the unmanned vehicles and coordinated the operations taking place within the distinguished visitor tent,” said Brockett. “These volunteer reservists accomplished a great deal and helped ensure a smooth exercise. They also are all in uniform and understand the warfare centers, which means a lot in such a complex environment.”
Electronics Technician 1st Class James Wilke, SPAWAR reservist, stressed that S2ME2 ANTX 2017 was a great experience, especially because he got to see UAVs in action and learn how technology continues to evolve to best meet the needs of the warfighter.
“As soon as I found out that I could work with the Unmanned Vehicle Lab as a reservist, I jumped on it,” said Wilke. “The majority of technology research [and development] is going toward furthering unmanned vehicles and it’s exciting to be a part of this warfare revolution. Over the last two weeks, this experience has given me a new perspective of what I can be a part of throughout my reserve career.”
The SPAWAR reserve program brings together a multitude of people who possess diverse skillsets acquired during their civilian careers in industry, private sector and corporate environments.
“From the perspective of the SPAWAR reserve program, in our reserve support, we are trying to define where we can best support the operations folks within the program offices to field and transition new technology,” said Mirelez. “We are constantly learning how to ‘change the game,’ adapt and insert our experiences into military operations. Reservists have to be flexible and resilient, and I am proud of the work that this team was able to learn and accomplish.”
Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command (SPAWAR) is the Navy acquisition command which develops, delivers, and sustains advanced information warfare capabilities for warfighters. SPAWAR, along with its system centers, space field activity, and its partnership with three program executive offices provides the hardware and software needed to execute Navy missions. With over 10,000 active-duty military and civilian professionals located around the world and close to the fleet, SPAWAR is at the forefront of research, engineering, and acquisition, keeping forces connected around the globe.