Marines test mixed reality ‘telemaintenance’ for battlefield repairs

Marines test mixed reality ‘telemaintenance’ for battlefield repairs

WASHINGTON — Marines are experimenting with mixed reality to use “telemaintenance” connect expert technicians with Marines in the field fixing complex gear.

Brig. Gen. Michael McWilliams, head of Marine Corps Logistics Command, told the audience here at the Modern Day Marine Expo Wednesday that in March Marines at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, in the unit he commands, 2nd Marine Logistics Group, began the experimentation.

“The impacts that this can have across the force are tremendous,” McWilliams said.

The move comes as the Corps wants to push out small, self-sustaining teams across the Pacific and other regions. And if things break, it’ll be up to the Marines on hand to fix them.

McWilliams said that the plan is to push the telemaintenance work across units at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, through the summer and look to expand it across the Marine Corps afterward.

Maj. Gen. Keith Reventlow added that using depot-level experts on equipment such as weapons systems to work with Marines in the field keeps that gear operating where it’s needed most rather than having to be shipped back to the depot and repaired.

Marines are using mixed reality goggles worn by the maintainer and the expert technician. That way each can “see” the same view and the expert can walk the Marine through the procedures to troubleshoot or repair an item, Reventlow said.

But, Reventlow noted, Marines are not the first to conduct telemaintenance. The Army has been assisting Ukrainian maintainers during their war with Russia to fix systems on or close to the front lines using remote connections.

Also, the Navy began testing telemaintenance on its aircraft carriers in 2020, the U.S. Naval Institute reported at the time.

And, in the contested logistics environment where Marines expect to fight, sending stuff back may not be an option.

Getting repair parts and supplies to Marines is equally challenging.

In recent years, the Corps has shifted its targeting and striking methods from a “kill chain,” a linear step process to finding, tracking, targeting and destroying threats to a “kill web,” in which multiple shooters and sensors through a web-like network optimize the best weapon to strike the intended target.

“Kind of like Amazon on steroids and lethal,” said Brig. Gen. Phillip Frietze, assistant deputy commandant of combat development and integration

The logistics leaders are taking the same approach but with beans, bullets, bandages and blood.

In 2023, when Frietze commanded 1st Marine Logistics Group in the Pacific the unit set up a sustainment web that stretched from Darwin, Australia to the Philippines, using commercial, military, U.S. and partner supply points in the region.

The web now sources blood supplies for emergencies locally rather than shipping in from out of the region, Frietze said.

At the same time, the web concept is being helped by connecting data across the inventory, Frietze said.

No longer is a Marine coming to a company gunnery sergeant in supply and listing off their supply needs, filling out requisition forms and going up the chain of command one unit at a time.

Now that gunny will have a tablet that automatically feeds in the supply items a unit needs and routes the request to the best supplier in the web, much like the “kill web” concept.

Todd South has written about crime, courts, government and the military for multiple publications since 2004 and was named a 2014 Pulitzer finalist for a co-written project on witness intimidation. Todd is a Marine veteran of the Iraq War.

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