How do you fuel the Royal Marines' Future Commando Force?

Royal Marines have been testing their ability to provide personnel with supplies and equipment when behind enemy lines and putting Future Commando Force concepts into practice.

Green Dragon is a validation exercise held in Wales designed to determine whether a logistics task group is capable and ready to be deployed with the lead commando group, under any environmental condition.

Lieutenant Colonel Rob Jones, Commanding Officer of Commando Logistic Regiment, explained the importance of the exercise for providing support to marines on a mission.

"What we are trying to do is sustain a force that is isolated by design because it has to be, it has to put itself deep inside enemy territory, and it has to be dispersed to survive because if you mass force on the battlefield you get wiped off the face of the earth," he said.

"So, it's a very difficult type of force to try and sustain, and the real challenge, I think, for us is to work through the detail of that to understand what sustainment looks like in the future and how we support a dispersed force with what is fundamentally quite a big heavy logistical organisation.

"So bridging that gap between big heavy trucks and the sea base and these really small disaggregated light strike teams in the land environment is incredibly difficult and that's what we are trying to do.

"It's a big task but we're up for it – we're up for the challenge," he added.

What is the Future Commando Force?

The Future Commando Force is designed to modernise the way Royal Marines operate.

The aim of it is to enhance the way commando missions are carried out, offering the UK a force ready to deploy around the world immediately, on tasks such as warfighting, combat missions, and humanitarian duties.

EX Green Dragon Royal Marines logistics training moving ammunition 03062021 CREDIT BFBS
Royal Marines took part in logistics training as part of Exercise Green Dragon.

The programme could also involve persistent forward deployments and special operations, with the size of teams changing.

It has been described by the Royal Navy as the most significant transformation and rebranding programme since the Second World War.

In 2020, Vanguard Strike Company, a new unit of more than 150 Marines and British Army Commandos, was established, and will feature personnel wearing a new Royal Marines uniform.

Details of the force were mentioned in the publication of March's Defence Command Paper and Integrated Review, including £40 million of funds going into the Navy to develop the Future Commando Force and transform British amphibious forces.

Watch: Royal Marines test Future Commando Force concepts in Cyprus

Logistics is a wide-ranging area, and covers all aspects of combat support,

This includes making sure there is enough ammunition, fuel and water – and ensuring this is all in the right place at the right time.

Commando Logistic Regiment needs to test and train in new ways, just as strike companies do.

Staff Sergeant Paddy Crowe of the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, Commando Logistic Regiment explained what the marines are aiming for ideally and how they are adapting to better achieve it.

Watch: Royal Marines trial new Future Command Force concepts.

"The Future Commando Force as a whole is looking to be fast and agile, need to be able to work as a dispersed unit, so having a smaller footprint on the battlefield, potentially being in place before anything even happens," he said.

"So we don't have those big clunky war-like support systems that we've seen in the days of Iraq and Afghanistan, and those big logistical chains that were established from World War Two, World War One back.

"Now it's a case of work in isolation, potentially have enough to carry with you for six to seven days, and then as we have to resupply and as we have to push forward, it's doing so quietly with the minimal amount of kit and then the kit you do have being innovative with it to make it work.

"So, where we don't need to use large trucks anymore, our force protection assets such as the Jackal in the background there, with the large 50 cal on it, they can start looking to resupply, reroll or multi-task essentially."

Every detail from the large to the small is considered as the Marines test ways that could increase efficiency on the battlefield.

Lt Col Rob Jones illustrated how these changes are trialled and then put into practice. 

"The changes can span from anything from basic bits of kit and equipment right through to big conceptual changes around how we operate.

"So we are really about how you make simple changes to the kit and equipment and the way we supply people with food – the way we look after them medically.

EX Green Dragon Royal Marines logistics training Marines battlefield training 03062021 CREDIT BFBS
Exercise Green Dragon was run by Commando Logistic Regiment.

"So, for instance, we are halving the weight of our rations, so we are taking seven days worth of rations from 14kg down to 7kg, it sounds like a small change but when you aggregate that up over a whole task group it's massive."

The way medical support is delivered on the battlefield is adapting and advancing with new technology that allows surgeons to link up to consultants in the UK to carry out difficult procedures.

Surgeon Commander Chris Hillman, the Clinical Director of the Commando Forward Surgical Group, explained how the technology works in practice.

"We've been trialling this new bit of technology – a 'tele-med' service where our surgeon is able to get support back from a surgeon in the UK," he said.

"The example is our surgeon is a vascular surgeon, very used to dealing with bleeding patients within his UK practice.

"However, certain procedures are unusual to him... things like neurosurgery within the head, cardiac surgery within the heart, or, say, gynaecological surgery, will be something he doesn't undertake in his day-to-day practice.

"He is able to get specialist support from a neurosurgeon back in the UK to guide him through what is a complex procedure and give him support in real-time."

The aim is for this ultimately to enable the medical support team to be smaller but more effective to assist anyone who is injured on operations.

Read more on the Royal Marines here.