The Perfect Soldier: Special Operations, Commandos, and the Future of Us Warfare by James F. Dunnigan
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Dirty Little Secrets
The Marine Corps Skunk Works
Discussion Board on this DLS topic
by Doug Mohney
August 22, 2004
Established in 1995, the Marine Corps Warfighting Lab (MCWL) in Quantico, Virginia is about the closest thing the Marines have to an in-house “Skunk Works” research facility. Its stated purpose is to improve current and future expeditionary warfare capabilities. The lab works with off-the-shelf technologies, and combines these with innovative concepts to move projects from concept, through rapid prototyping for testing in field exercises and, more recently, directly to marines in Iraq and Afghanistan. One division of the MCWL, the Corps Wargaming division, got some media attention by adapting the “Doom” PC game for training Marines in squad-level tactics.
One of the lab’s more recent quick-response projects has been a pair of Kevlar shorts designed to stop shrapnel from roadside
bombs. Ten pairs of the “lower body armor” have been distributed to vehicle gunners -- typically well-protected along the torso with standard-issue body armor, but receiving “a lot” of injuries to the buttocks and upper thighs. A pair of the one-size shorts are worn over the uniform and held up with built-in suspenders. Weighing in at nearly 5 pounds, they have been nicknamed “lederhosen” and “fishing shorts.”
Another product of the lab are the “X-Files,” printable information summaries designed printed out and tucked away in a cargo pocket for easy reading. Topics of the “X-Files” include such hot topics as urban defense, urban patrolling, as well as more mundane topics as the Animal Packers manual and water procurement.
Other MCWL efforts include several different satellite-based communications projects, a search for a “personal defense weapon” to replace the 9mm pistol ( with a more effective submachine gun), and a supercomputer-based combat “simulation” to game through multiple options in a particular combat situation. The simulation effort, Project Albert, is described as “SimCity adapted to a combat situation.”