Commandos send in the drones in hi-tech Cyprus workout

Royal Marines are swapping daggers for drones as they take their biggest step yet into the future.

Green berets are conducting two weeks of trials with drones of all sizes and abilities as they forge the commandos of tomorrow.

Robot systems will be used to provide commandos on the ground with ammunition, fuel, medical supplies or food and water, as well as intelligence of ‘enemy’ movements and activity.

The two-week workout in and off Cyprus – dubbed Exercise Autonomous Advance Force 3.0 – is one of the key set-piece events on this autumn’s amphibious deployment by the Royal Navy.

Lessons learned will be used both to develop the tactics and determine the equipment needed to turn the Royal Marines into the Future Commando Force.

The tip-to-toe overhaul of the Corps sees Royal Marines returning to their commando roots as small, stealthy raiding teams who strike from the sea, aided by the latest tech.

Some of the equipment and tactics were tested in Norway earlier this year. The Mediterranean allows similar experimentation – but in warmer surroundings.

We are putting this technology into the hands of Royal Marines and sailors and integrating it both at sea and on land

Colonel Chris Haw, Commanding Officer of 47 Commando Raiding Group

“Cyprus gives us a superb opportunity to test the equipment and concepts of the UK’s Future Commando Force, whilst maintaining our excellence at the basics,” said Colonel Chris Haw, Commanding Officer of 47 Commando Raiding Group Royal Marines, leading the exercise.

“We are putting this technology into the hands of Royal Marines and sailors and integrating it both at sea and on land.”

Working with defence tech company QinetiQ, 47 Commando’s trials squadron will test a number of drones, including operating between Royal Navy vessels and the shore for the first time.

Also being assessed is new communications kit which should work better and more covertly when used by small teams operating behind enemy lines.

Royal Marines from 40 Commando will use a live data feed from a drone for surveillance and reconnaissance training, plus test software that will assist communications, gathering intelligence, navigating, and data sharing in challenging environments.

Perhaps most impressive is the software used to mash all the tech and data into something the team in the operations room on support ship RFA Lyme Bay can exploit.

Not to be outdone by the automated technology, 47 Commando will also be trialling novel methods of inserting small teams from ship to shore, while different elements of 42 Commando practise their specialist skills alongside Cypriot forces.

Monitoring both tech and tactics closely over the next fortnight is Natalie Anders from the MOD’s science labs DSTL.

“Autonomous Advance Force 3 brings together commando forces with autonomous technologies to deliver battle winning advantage,” she explained.

“By experimenting with both tactics and technology we can multiply the effectiveness of each marine on the ground.”