“Marine Corps Has Turned a New Page in Warfare”
“A Marine went anywhere from 20 to 30% hit rate on a moving target to
80 to 90% in just one day”
Marathon Targets, the global leader in providing autonomous robotic targets to militaries and law enforcement worldwide, played a central role at the December unveiling of USMC’s Golf 36 at Camp Lejeune. Defense media on both sides of the Atlantic quickly hailed Golf-36 “The Range of the Future”.
The range featured a platoon of 45 AI-driven autonomous robotic targets – Trackless Moving Infantry Targets (TMIT’s) assaulted by a company of Marines. The range was built in 5 months and cost only $2.3 million, compared to five years and $10 -12 million for a conventional range — a 75%-80% reduction in cost and time.
Military.com: “A Marine went anywhere from 20 to 30% hit rate on a moving target to 80 to 90% in just one day…The Marine Corps Has Turned a New Page in Warfare…The ‘Range of the Future’”
Military.com’s article “Marine Corps Just Got its First Live-Fire Range Designed for RoboticTargets” stated “After years of training and qualifying on traditional ranges with stationary targets, the Marine Corps has turned a new page in warfare with the certification of a sophisticated range of the future aboard Camp Lejeune.” It describes a cost-saving “design explicitly intended to incorporate lifelike robotic targets that can dodge, change direction, shift and even charge the attacking Marine Corps force.”
Military.com quoted 2nd Marine Division Gunner CWO5 Joshua Smith describing how autonomous TMITs improved Marines’ lethality by tripling or quadrupling their hit rate in a single day. Smith said “a Marine went anywhere from 20 to 30% hit rate on a moving target to 80 to 90% in just one day.” Smith added, “Imagine, if I can do reps and sets like that all the time, how I could increase lethality at the individual level.”
Marine Corps Times: “It’s likely to become the standard by which deploying infantry units are measured…Creating a new kind of dynamic range … Those things [robots] are amazing”
Marine Corps Times article “This new Marine Corps live fire range has it all: robot enemies, rockets, mortars, breaching” predicted “it’s likely to become the standard by which deploying infantry units are measured before they depart” on future missions.
Marine Corps Times described how Camp Lejeune is “creating a new kind of dynamic range.” Base operations commander, Colonel Gary McCullar, detailed how he “and his range design team got to work with kind of a clean slate.” He added that, “The previous Range 6 had  pop-up targets that required electrical lines and communication lines to run and then limit where targets can be placed, essentially making the range fairly static.” The previous range “that held the pop-up targets, didn’t allow for supporting fire weapons into something that would give the Marines the feel of fighting a peer competitor.”
The previous Golf 6 was only three years old, but would not meet new peer-range standards. “McCullar said the [new] project cost $2.3 million, but could have cost four to five times as much” had it been built traditionally instead.
Marine Corps Times added that a key “goal, for the range is to be used in a company-sized live fire at night.” Division Gunner Smith added, “G-36 adds the environment as part of the problem. In parts of the range, the trees play into the problem, as it is harder to see the enemy – just as it would be in real life.”
Another benefit of the ‘clean sheet’ approach is that the size of the range footprint increases as adjacent land becomes usable. “The old Golf-6 was slated as a company-sized, live fire assault range and stood about 1,000 by 900 meters, the new Golf 36 is 1,000 meters by 1,500 meters” said Marine Corps Times. This 67% increase in range size on existing land shows the benefit of ‘infra-stretching’ – making more efficient use of existing infrastructure, while also stretching asset life.
“The robots are adaptable to any live fire range on the base,” McCullar said. Robots can be moved to a new range and set up for a shoot in less than an hour.
Task & Purpose: “The Corps ditched static targets in favor of robotic targets that can move freely around the range”
Task and Purpose headlined “Marines go up against more ‘realistic enemy’ of robots and terrain at new live fire range.” They described how “At G-36, the Corps ditched static targets in favor of robotic targets that can move freely around the range — just like the bad guys — while the range itself has uncut grass and trees along the way that make it more difficult to maneuver.”
“The most striking thing about G-36 though are the targets. Unlike traditional targets, they can move anywhere, not just along predetermined tracks…A Showcase for robotic targets…the first of many.”
Forbes’ article “US Marine Corps Opens Futuristic Firing Range with Robot Targets” noted that “the most striking thing about G-36 though are the targets. Unlike traditional targets, they can move anywhere, not just along predetermined tracks.” Forbes stated, “the G-36 firing range will be a showcase for robotic targets, as well as a training ground,” adding “it could be the first of many.”
Digital Trends: “[current] shooting ranges are simplified abstractions that don’t bear very much resemblance to real life warfare.”
Digital Trends, with 30 million monthly readers, headlined: “The future of military training? Target practice on running, shrieking robots.” “You don’t have to be a firearms expert to know that the shooting range isn’t a perfect stand-in for what it’s like to be in a real firefight. Currently, unless you happen to find yourself in a shootout with a group of enemy mannequins or two-dimensional cut outs with their vital organs helpfully labeled, shooting ranges are simplified abstractions that don’t bear very much resemblance to real life warfare.”
Daily Mail OnLine, the world’s largest English language online services, quoted Gunner Joshua Smith’s description of the objective of the new range, “as the Corps transitions to the peer and near-peer fight, we strive to produce a live fire problem set which removes a three-to-one advantage the Marine Corps typically enjoyed.”
“Range 36 is indeed the ‘Range of the Future,’” said Ralph Petroff, President – North America of Marathon Targets. “It has proven that a ‘clean sheet approach’ to future small arms live fire ranges will immediately improve individual lethality, while also decreasing the time and cost to upgrade ranges. It will likely become the template for all future DOD small arms ranges.”
Petroff added, “Many studies by the USMC and Army have validated the immediate increase in lethality that comes from training against a thinking, adaptive and unpredictable enemy force that looks, moves and behaves like a real adversary. But Golf-36 proves that there are also enormous savings in construction costs and timelines. Going from $10 -12 million and 3-5 years down to just over $2 million and a few months is a reduction in cost and time of 80% – a seismic change.”
“Marines have already proven that AI-enabled autonomous ‘thinking targets’ turbocharge unit readiness and lethality, but this approach is also in synch with Army’s new focus on small unit readiness as described in the new FM 7-0 training manual. At the tip of the spear, the proficiency of the individual war fighter is what really matters.” Petroff added. “Nothing is as powerful as an idea whose time has come, and the time for inexpensive, fast range modernization that triples lethality overnight – has definitely arrived.”