Modern military engagements increasingly take place in complex and uncertain battlefield conditions where attacks can come from multiple directions at once, and in the electromagnetic spectrum and cyber domains as well. U.S. Army and U.S. Marine Corps dismounted infantry squads, however, have been unable to take full advantage of some highly effective multi-domain defensive and offensive capabilities that vehicle-assigned forces currently enjoy—in large part because many of the relevant technologies are too heavy and cumbersome for individual Soldiers and Marines to carry or too difficult to use under demanding field conditions.
To help overcome these challenges and help ensure U.S. squad dominance over adversaries in the decades to come, DARPA has launched the Squad X Experimentation (Squad X) program. Squad X seeks to design, develop and validate system prototypes for combined-arms squads. The program intends to lay the foundation for breakthrough technologies and capabilities that would:
- Improve shared situational understanding of the multi-domain operational environment: physical, electromagnetic and cyber
- Increase the time and space in which squads can maneuver through optimized use of physical, cognitive and material resources
- Shape and dominate the battlespace through synchronization of fire and maneuvering in all three domains
“Through Squad X, we want to vastly improve dismounted squad effectiveness in all domains by integrating new and existing technologies into systems that squads can bring with them,” said Maj. Christopher Orlowski, DARPA program manager. “The squad is the formation with the greatest potential for impact and innovation, while having the lowest barrier to entry for experimentation and system development. The lessons we learn and the technology we create could not only transform dismounted squads’ capabilities, but also eventually help all warfighters more intuitively understand and control their complex mission environments.”
Squad X intends to combine off-the-shelf technologies and new capabilities under development through DARPA’s Squad X Core Technologies (SXCT) program, which was launched specifically to develop novel technologies that Squad X could integrate into user-friendly systems. SXCT shares Squad X’s overarching goal of ensuring that Soldiers and Marines maintain uncontested tactical superiority over potential adversaries by exploring capabilities in four areas: precision engagement, non-kinetic engagement, squad sensing and squad autonomy. In an important step toward that goal, SXCT recently awarded Phase 1 contracts to nine organizations.