For Immediate Release: Sept. 16, 2021
By Warren Duffie Jr., Office of Naval Research
ARLINGTON, Va.—The Marine sprinted 50 feet up the length of the range, crouched behind a barricade and took multiple shots at a specific target. He then dashed another 50 feet along the range’s width, took position behind another barricade and fired at another target.
During the run, the Marine wore sensors and other tools that measured physiological responses such as heart rate and movement speed; captured precise timing for every shot fired; and quickly determined accuracy post-shooting. The accumulated data fed into a handheld tablet operated by an observer, creating an immediate, detailed picture of the Marine’s overall marksmanship performance.
The warfighter’s run took place during a recent demo in Fredericksburg, Virginia. The demo tested technologies sponsored by the Office of Naval Research (ONR) for infantry training: (1) the Human Performance EcoSystem (HP EcoSystem), which measures the human body’s response to physical stress, and (2) the Joint Marksmanship Assessment Package (JMAP), which assesses shot timing and accuracy as well as potential lethality. A team from the Naval Health Research Center’s (NHRC) Warfighter Performance (WFP) Department provided on-the-ground research support.
“These systems enable us to study and understand critical marksmanship variables that were not previously possible at the scale and speed needed for infantry training,” said Dr. Peter Squire, a program officer in ONR’s Warfighter Performance Department. “This enables us to move from an industrial-age training approach to an information-age one.”
The participants testing HP EcoSystem and JMAP included representatives from the Marine Corps’ Training and Education Command, Weapons Training Battalion and School of Infantry—as well as scientists and subject matter experts (SMEs) within ONR’s research network. The demo comprised live-fire “shoot-house” and outdoor range exercises, as well as “force-on-force” events involving live role players and non-lethal training ammunition.
Both HP EcoSystem and JMAP are built from commercially available hardware and sensors. What makes them unique is their specialized software and data-collection capabilities that enable real-time measurements of performance.
HP EcoSystem uses physical responses, such as heart rate and breathing, to appraise how fatigue and stress affect shooting accuracy. It can incorporate other factors like previous injuries suffered and current weather conditions to see how these alter human performance.
JMAP’s primary purpose is to gauge lethality—whether shots fall into the “kill” zones of either the head or chest, and also the speed at which those shots were taken.
“By working these systems in tandem, you can identify when there’s a dip in performance or lethality,” said Timothy Parker, a marksmanship SME supporting ONR’s Warfighter Performance Department. “From there, you can have that Marine run multiple tactical simulations to get faster and more resilient and accurate—similar to getting stronger by going to the gym. The systems track performance across different types of weapons and associated equipment, such as scopes.”
“The combination of this granular marksmanship data, along with real-time physiological monitoring, is cutting edge. Our intent is to provide USMC commanders an integrated picture of lethality and how physiological factors may impact lethality," said Dr. Rachel Markwald, a research physiologist in the NHRC WFP Department.
Both HP EcoSystem and JMAP are supporting the Marine Corps School of Infantry as it rolls out the new Infantry Marine Course. The course is part of Commandant Gen. David Berger’s effort to redesign the Marine infantry battalion. This redesign stems from Berger’s Force Design 2030 update, which aims to prepare the Marine Corps for its next fight.
Force Design 2030 reflects the Marine Corps’ commitment to addressing potential threats in the Pacific. It envisions Marines operating in small, fast-moving, dispersed units across atolls and islands, relying on their own capabilities to complete missions across long distances. The redesigned Infantry Marine Course seeks to increase Marines’ proficiency across multiple weapons systems and combat scenarios. HP EcoSystem and JMAP will provide commanders with data needed to accomplish that mission.
“Marines might have to face peer and near-peer adversaries in dispersed, littoral environments,” said Squire. “We need them to be able to move and shoot faster and more accurately than their future adversaries. HP EcoSystem and JMAP are focused on enhancing their skill and resiliency to confront those threats.”
Warren Duffie Jr. is a contractor for ONR Corporate Strategic Communications.
About the Office of Naval Research
The Department of the Navy’s Office of Naval Research provides the science and technology necessary to maintain the Navy and Marine Corps’ technological advantage. Through its affiliates, ONR is a leader in science and technology with engagement in 50 states, 55 countries, 634 institutions of higher learning and nonprofit institutions, and more than 960 industry partners. ONR, through its commands, including headquarters, ONR Global and the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, D.C., employs more than 3,800 people, comprising uniformed, civilian and contract personnel.