Commando 2035 – Sci-Fi or Reality?
By OF3 RM
A POSSIBLE AMPHIBIOUS OPERATION IN 2035
All technology described in this text is either available now or as a working concept
Lt Col Richards squinted through his VR glasses and looked around the Amphibious Operations Room of HMS ALBION. She was an old ship now but he remembered her well from his first Landing Craft (LC) troop command in 2009; the computer screens and servers that generated so much heat had now been replaced with holographic screens on the bulkheads. The headsets looked like normal reading glasses and users logged in and out of the screens using these. They also tracked the user’s retina and could project it like a laser dot on to the screen so they could brief from any where in the room.
Augmented Reality Military Concept
Although the original (Out of Service Date) OSD for ALBION had been 2032, the reality (as Lt Col Richards had told his Senior Officers in 2015) was that capital ships always ran on and refits now nearly cost as much as a replacement. The problem was the Navy’s disinvestment in Amphibious Operations in the late teens and early 2020s had led to the Landing Platform Dock (LPD) replacement being prioritised under the T26 and T31 which secured UK ship building, but also capacity until 2042.
The Commando Force 2035 used to be known as Future Commando Force but had been renamed as a quickly adapting force which pre-empted the changing character of conflict every five years. Although Commando Force 2030 had suffered from money being prioritised to landing craft whilst self-learning AI capability matured, Commando Force 2035 now realised the 2019 aspiration of a Commando Troop delivering the capability of a Commando Company.
He smiled wryly; the Amphibious Task Group (ATG) was 150 miles in the wrong direction, the Carrier Strike Group (CSG) couldn’t close within 250 miles of the coast due to the Russian Federation Anti-Access Area Denial (A2AD) capability and the F35B was right on its limit of useful time on top. The ATG being sent in the wrong direction was a purposeful ruse, part of the deception plan to insert the Pre Landing Force (PLF) before the Littoral Strike Group (LSG) could launch on a flank. Operations using Unmanned Underwater Vessels (UUV) dropped from Norwegian fishing vessels had cleared the littoral penetration points of mines, sending the same RF frequency back to the Russian command, waiting to be activated and disable their new subsurface oppos. These “crabs” were hundreds of small subsurface robots that used swarm theory and algorithms to hunt the mines. When the Russians pressed to test, there would literally be a damp Squib at the other end.
Concept Proposals for UUV – Link
Russia’s failing economy could only be hidden by sub threshold land grabs and economic energy coercion for so long. Putin was old and ill. Despite hiding behind a democratic narrative and changing his Prime Minister every few years, social unrest in the south of the federation was exacerbated by unrest in Iran through Saudi proxies who used their experience in Yemen to conduct destabilisation operations in Tehran. Furthered by the Eastern European Union countries investment in self-sufficiency through clean energy reduced reliance and influence on and from Russia. This required a switch in focus to disrupting the Nordic states, ensuring the Baltics remained open for Russian freedom of manoeuvre in the maritime. A misjudgement by a Russian proxy who mistook a Dutch flagged oil tanker moving in a NATO packet of ships, which led to an over reaction by a Danish frigate had begun the escalation. How Lt Col Richards was now in full anti-flash because of three foreigners having a massive lapse in judgement would need to wait because 150 miles in the right direction, Capt Cook was reading the chart under red light. Using a passive form of navigation, based on John Harrisons principles for Longitudinal navigation, Capt Cook turned the boat group toward the coast. The main effort here was stealth. The range of cheap electronic scanners and jammers available was staggering and the concept of “Commando” had to go back to it roots. The Commando Force 2035 now based itself on a slightly different 3 Rs to that taught in school; Raiding, Risk and Reversion. The latter didn’t mean backward, it just meant stuff that couldn’t be hacked, jammed or run out of batteries. Asymmetric and Hybrid warfare had shown that the 5 Cs (Congested, Cluttered, Connected, Contested, Constrained) theory had been accurate, where a war among the people was inevitable. Iraq, Afghanistan and more recently South Sudan had shown that the David and Goliath fable was still strong today. Delivery of specific strengths to specific weakness was the key to success.
Russian A2AD estimated Range Rings
This meant a return to real mission command where junior leaders were left to get on with it rather than being distracted sending SITREPs all the time. They were now only required to get on the net if there was a problem, when they had won or to cue the next phase. The Situational Awareness (SA) picture for the ATG was taken from high altitude UAV, monitoring social media and intercepting enemy commercial comms fits. As long as it didn’t go noisy until the Commandos wanted it to, then no news was good news.
Airbus Zephyr – MOD experimentation.
The RM Landing Craft Officers (LCOs) were now the Royal Navy’s SMEs in non-electronic navigation techniques. Not through choice but because the RN had decided not to invest in electronic navigation for the Landing Craft (LC) fleet until 2028 when it became apparent the Landing Craft Utility (LCU) would also need to run on commensurate with the LPD and LSDA extended OSD. Now in this electronically denied environment, the LCOs were sought after to support the wider Fleet. The LCU had gone through a midlife upgrade with a tri bow front end modification and bigger engines which got them up to 25kts un-laden. The Dispersed Boat Group was a mix of LCU and Low Signature Insertion Craft (LSIC) which provided the life support, fire protection and insertion capability to deploy the 80 pax Pre Landing Force. Travelling in 3 mixed packets from different ships, they had linked up an hour ago. This was a slightly unconventional deployment for this capability. Normally used for opening beaches and delivering troops to target, today, the task of the PLF was to shape the battle space, enable the fires and link up with the SF already in country.
Concept design for LSIS – Link
The boat group was now 30nm off the coast; time for the LCUs to drop back and the LSIC to begin their approach. The catamaran hull of the LSIC created limited wake and their low profile would be invisible to the coastal defence radars. To make sure, they would submerge 5nm from the coast and navigate the final hour just below the surface before surfacing for the drop off on the beach. At the Final Rendezvous (FRV), Capt Cook had set up a low energy Wi-Fi hot spot and shared the final information including full fly through of the beach approaches and exits to the VR headsets of the PLF and the LCs.
On board the lead LSIC, Major Dunn, the PLF OC had the beach exit on a loop on his right eye whilst photos of his contacts scrolled on his left eye. The PLF had rehearsed this exit the day before in the rehearsal pods on the vehicle decks of the LPD, LSDA and LSS (Littoral Strike Ship). Each pod looked like a cage with a parachute harness attached. Once hitched up, the concave floor paired with special shoes and the user could move in any direction in the VR environment uploaded by the J2 with full interaction between individuals including fire fights and conversations.
To his left, signaller Cpl Wild was also running through the scenario on the VR headset but this time he was passively scanning the electromagnetic spectrum for anything coming from shore side. Cpl Wild was part of “iGen” and joined under the “New Employment Model i”. NEMi had recognised that his generation joined the military, not for a career and certainly not for the pension but for the experience. Whilst the challenge was there, they would be there, when it went away, so did they. In an attempt to retain their skill sets a new “deal” was offered. Commandos could join from civvie street or from any service for 4 years and then stay or leave. If they took the civilian route but wanted to rejoin at any time, they would sign up on a 2 year rolling contract, returning to Commando Training Centre to complete a Commando Assessment Course before regenerating with one of the Littoral Readiness Groups. This had been a popular half way house between the 22 year Open Engagement which left iGen feeling trapped and the door shutting hard behind if they left and the debacle of Reserves 2020 which didn’t even offer enough training days to keep troops in date for mandated courses.
Maj Dunn’s voice came over the intercom “OK guys, time to take your “Wakey Wakeys”. Wakeys were the name of the supplements that Commandos were issued to keep them going during the early phases of an operation. Not quite as bad as amphetamine, they didn’t have the same levels of high and low or addiction, they simply kept you going for 72hrs without sleep. Critically there was no crash either so 6-8hrs sleep the individual was back up and normal. 72hrs should be plenty for this task. The medics in each team handed them round from their suspension seating on the LSIC. They also took the opportunity to hand round the bags of freeze-dried blood plasma each man now carried. To keep the weight down, any man who needed blood filled the first bag with any water they could find: from stream water to urine. Inside the bag was anhydrous calcium chloride causing an exothermic reaction that fractionally distils the solution. When it reached the correct temperature the water vapour released from the first bag to the second bag allowing the plasma to rehydrate and be used on the man.
“Prepare to Beach” The LSIC began to rise above the surface of the water but continued silent running on its electric engines. “Standby to Beach” The front ramp of the LSIC could be heard extending forwards as the hull scraped up the beach. “Out troops” The VR headsets stayed on the men as they progressed forward, transmitting a CGI image of what should be in front of them. Through the opaque screen the eyes could still see using what ambient and enhanced light there was with the VR overlay. The quantum computer that is the human brain did the rest to provide the user with an augmented reality similar to that of Pokémon Go.
As they crashed through the low surf, Cpl Wild could hear the LSIC slowly extracting. Part of Commando 2030 had been a return to being comfortable being uncomfortable, fighting light and carrying a bare minimum. This took some serious self discipline as other services and nations had moved towards active exoskeletons to enable troops to carry more or move more quickly, Cpl Wild was glad the Royal Marines hadn’t gone down that route. Hand held Electro-Magnetic Pulse (EMP) devices were the modern day IED; easy to make and stock pile, if you were hit by one of those in an exoskeleton then you were trapped inside; already on a rack that the enemy could string you up by before streaming your death via social media straight into your own ops room.
The Commando 2030 Concept paper had evolved from its initial distribution in 2017 where it essentially restated the case for and rebranded the Amphibious Capability to a Commando Capability. Further refinements moved the Commandos from being fit infantry à la Afghanistan and placed them in the delta between the VHR Striker Brigades and UKSF. This had taken the 3 R’s forward and it required a robust CGRM to argue that Commandos were not party to the same medical time lines or levels of protection that the other more risk adverse Arms had signed up to. This appetite for risk hadn’t quite returned to first line scales consisting of a fighting knife and a cap comforter, but it had meant commanders really understanding that the impact of simply increasing protection was instilling an already defeated mindset that they would be found, fixed and struck. By instilling a fight light, stealth attitude, the Commandos mindset was to not get found in the first place.
The PLF moved off the back of the beach to their RV. A small team moved further forward and conducted a link up with the in-theatre team consisting of members from the Military Liaison Advisory Team (MLAT). These troops were normally based at embassies, as a very high threat STTT (Short-Term Training Team). They are not spooks aimed at strategic level intelligence, but not quite living amongst the people either. Their role was to establish a framework of niche capabilities with indigenous forces aimed at initially defeating anti access capability through direct action or cyber attack to enable follow on forces. The PLF were bringing mass and capability to these teams.
The teams broke down in to their task orientated groups. The multi disciplinary teams were no longer used and PLF were now role specific, dependant on the task. The first thing the Littoral Strike Group needed to do was get the Russian A2AD to unmask. Once these positions were open, the submarines, T45 and T26 could bring their weapons to bear and support the assault. This would be done in several concurrent actions.
Russian S300 Long-Range Surface to Air Defence System
The first team would set up a simulation of the first wave of MV22 (Osprey heavy lift helicopter) coming from the QEC. This would be a co-ordinated deception, the LCUs would launch a swarm of drones from Over The Horizon (OTH) that painted the radar picture of MV22 whilst the PLF control them and present the electro magnetic signatures of the aircraft moving forward. Another team would operate in the mountains laying a bread crumb of transmitters to guide the jets and TLAMS over land to targets. Traditional methods of GPS navigation would leave them vulnerable to tracking and jamming; these short range transmitters would just disappear in to the background noise. The TLAMs would be launched from submarine, tracking commercial airline routes before breaking away and proceeding to target. Team three would be working most closely with MLATs and the indigenous proxies. They brought ashore the really sensitive hacking equipment. The Russian A2AD power system was run and controlled through the 5G telephone network. The team would need to use a piece of equipment to ghost a mobile phone mast near a sub station. Once they had mapped the mast they could then turn the power of their ghost up to drown the actual mast out. This would cause the network in the area to hop to the stronger signal and the team were then in, able to shut down on demand. The final team were there to open the landing point for the assault. Using a range of UXV, most of this would be done from stand off capability. Micro-UUVs would recce the beach and use the 5G signal to send their data to the team. Once the recce was complete, their secondary task would be to transition to land. Designed to resemble rocks they would set up the beach transits, waiting for the first wave of landing craft to switch them on for terminal guidance. The additional UUVs would also transition to different roles. Drones were useful but were easily detected and defeated with EMP, these UUVs would lay dormant on the beach or in the water until activated where they would inflate a small balloon allowing them to rise into the air. Some were mounted with cameras and very quickly an anti drone barrage was in situ.
Bell V-247 Unmanned Long Range High Speed (MV22 alternate) – Link
Back at the RV site, the team spread out waiting for the final go. Their low electromagnetic spectrum signature was further enhanced by the use of fibre optics between the team HQs. Once on the move, the most covert way of communicating would be in the noise of the in-country phone network. Once Cpl Wild got the nod from Maj Dunn he would send the last text via the fibre optic network to the Team HQs then everyone would pack up and move off with their new in-country hosts…
 DSTL PROJECT HERMIONE demonstrated that UK technical ship building capacity and projected GDP could not supply T26, T31 and replacement LPD(LHD) in declared timelines. The result was LHD being outsourced (increase in %GDP on ships required) or LPD LSDA extending to the 2040 time frame.
 Littoral Support Ship. A re purposed commercial ship.
 UXV refers to all UUV, UAV, USV