Marine Corps Warfighting Lab experiment may lead to possible change in target engagement
MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO, Va. -- The Field Testing Branch from the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory’s Experiment Division began testing techniques for engaging moving targets during the Moving Target Technique Limited Objective Experiment 2 at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va., Sept. 16.
The experiment, which ends Sept. 27, tests the most effective technique and method to engage moving targets with the M-4 carbine and M-27 infantry automatic rifle.
“This experiment is fundamentally about — how do I make an individual Marine more lethal,” Capt. Benjamin Brewster, project officer with the field testing branch at the Warfighting Lab, said.
The experiment is also using and evaluating Robotic Moving Targets. The robots are treaded moving targets developed by an Australian company named Marathon to help train service members in marksmanship.
Marines from The Basic School and Weapons Training Battalion, Quantico, Va., fired the M-4 and M-27 at the robots using three techniques: tracking, ambush and swing through. The Marines tested each technique using semi-automatic, burst and automatic fire in the standing, kneeling and prone positions.
The shooters engaged targets moving perpendicular to them, at both a 75-meter and 150-meter distance, firing thousands of rounds throughout the experiment. The robots simulate an enemy crossing a road.
“Much like hitting a baseball, moving target engagement is a skill that has to be trained, honed and maintained in order for someone to be proficient with it,” Brewster said.
For the ambush technique, the shooter picks a pre-designated point and fires when the target comes into their sight. For tracking, the shooter follows the target in their sight and takes the shot when they feel ready. For the swing through, originally a skeet shoot method, the shooter sights in behind the target, follows its direction of travel, and fires through it.
“We are trying to validate if one of those techniques is more effective than the others,” Brewster said.
The data collectors measured hit ratio by technique, method, shooting position, distance, and by the equipment of each shooter, either wearing full combat gear, or not wearing gear.
In nine years of being an infantry Marine and after five combat deployments, Sgt. Phillipi Sanz, a combat marksmanship trainer with Weapons Training Battalion, said he has only trained on one range that focused on moving targets. If the results of this experiment help to change how Marines train, “There is no where we can go but up.”
Out of 110 rounds fired during the annual rifle qualification, only eight are fired on moving targets. The moving targets currently used are frontal silhouettes about 19 inches wide by 40 inches tall. They are exposed for 10 seconds, and move at a pace of one to two miles an hour.
“The current marksmanship tables in the annual rifle qualification are completely unrealistic to train a Marine to shoot a moving target,” Brewster, an infantry officer with two Afghanistan deployments, said.
The robots present a target the size of an average person. They fall over when shot and can simulate average walking and running paces from four to eight miles an hour.
With the more realistic features of the robots, training on them provides a more difficult but accurate portrayal of a combat scenario, the makers of the robots said.
“You throw in something unpredictable and it totally changes the dynamic,” Alex Brooks, CEO of Marathon, the company responsible for developing the robots, said “Rather than just training moving marksmanship, you’re training judgment, rules of engagement and situational awareness.”
Soldiers from the Asymmetric Warfare Group supported the experiment by helping with data collection and operation of the robots.
Brewster hopes the experiment will lead to alternative training for moving target marksmanship, ultimately making Marines more efficient in combat, leading to lives saved and mission accomplishment.
“As it stands right now, there is no training for a Marine to shoot moving targets that he is realistically going to encounter in combat before he deploys,” Brewster said.