Infantry Battalion Experiment-30 (IBX30) Phase I ResultsPosted on January 15,2023
Article Date 01/02/2023
>Capt Hogan is a 1302 Combat Engineer Officer assigned to the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory. After serving his first tour at 1st Combat Engineer Battalion, he has spent the past two and a half years working as an integral part of the lab’s Infantry Battalion Experiment 2030 team.
In November, the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory (MCWL) released the FD2030 Update: Infantry Battalion Experiment for Service-wide consumption.1 This publication was the culmination of two years of work within the lab and all three MEFs and concisely presents the infantry battalion experimentation (IBX30) effort’s findings thus far. But before explaining the document, it is worth starting at the beginning, with the Commandant’s sweeping Force Design 2030 (FD2030) initiative.
As a component of Gen Berger’s FD2030 effort, in 2020, an integrated planning team (IPT) developed the design of the future infantry battalion. Starting from the principles articulated in the Commandants’ 2019 Planning Guidance, FD2030, and The Case for Change, the IPT envisioned a battalion comprised of “highly trained and educated, competent, mature Marines, [equipped] with state-of-the-art weapons and equipment” that would distribute its forces to execute offensive, defensive, and expeditionary operations against a peer adversary.2 The battalion reflected a shift towards peer competition, the growing maturation and proliferation of adversary long-range precision fires, the proliferation of drones and loitering munitions, and the influence of electromagnetic and cyber warfare capabilities. The 735-Marine formation dramatically altered the infantry battalion, inserting new capabilities at lower echelons, divesting of significant structure and personnel, and relying on new concepts such as a more mature MARSOC-like Marine and an arms room.3
After seeing the new design, the CMC published an FD2030 update and tasked MCWL with validating IPT assumptions and analyzing the proposed size and composition of the future infantry battalion, initiating IBX30 Phase I.
Background: What Was IBX30 Phase I?
To test and refine the IPT’s 735-Marine formation, MCWL conducted a series of experiments including modeling and simulation, wargames, and live-force experimentation. All these events examined the experimental focus areas of sustainment, command and control (C2), sensing, and lethality. Working in tandem with other components of Headquarters Marine Corps and by, with, and through FMF partners, MCWL developed a deliberate and iterative experiment plan to test the design that included three battalions, one from each MEF. 1/1 Mar, 1/2 Mar, and 1/3 Mar each experimented with slightly different tables of equipment and organization, testing different components of the original design.
Over the last two years, MCWL conducted eleven live-force experiments in three countries and five states in diverse weather conditions, mountainous terrain, and desert and jungle environments. Experiment locations included Twentynine Palms, CA; Camp Lejeune, NC; the Pohakuloa Training Area, Kaneohe Bay, and Marine Corps Training Area Bellows, HI; Okinawa, Japan; Yuma, AZ; San Clemente Island, CA; Northern Luzon, Philippines; and Fola Mine, WV. The diverse experiments stressed different parts of the design and allowed collection from the squad to battalion echelons, across the warfighting functions, and against the infantry battalion’s core mission essential tasks.
Throughout all experiments, MCWL listened to, observed, and collected feedback from the experimental units and other partners, consolidating that information for analysis and to generate conclusions about the design. The analyses and evaluations provided information and insights on the effectiveness of the 735-Marine design and how it might fight in the future. After producing multiple reports, briefs, and studies, IBX30 Phase I ultimately culminated in a decision by the Commandant in June 2022.
Observations: What We Saw
Many of MCWL’s observations directly related to the battalion’s design, feeding recommendations on how to alter personnel structure or equipment to optimize the unit for the present and future. These included needing more bandwidth for communications and administrative tasks, a shortage of personnel within the 81mm mortar platoon, and friction created by a lack of a dedicated ground-intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance unit among others. These observations fed MCWL’s recommendations to the CMC but do not capture everything we saw. A large part of the experimentation included re-imagining how an infantry battalion will fight with the new organization and capabilities.
The new formation is flooded with new capabilities including company-level signals intelligence and electro-magnetic warfare, squad-level organic precision fires, Group 2 UAS, and lighter, more agile tactical mobility. These transformative capabilities bring aspects of warfare down to the tactical edge at unprecedented density and levels of integration, giving a company the ability to understand and leverage the spectrum during operations, effectively placing a new dimension of war at their fingertips. But sifting through all of the changes, the analysis team identified three fundamental components of the battalion’s future employment that describe how it should fight: interchangeable C2 nodes, hunter-killer pairing at echelon, and hub and spoke operations. While not comprehensive, these ideas underpin the conceptual shift in how the infantry battalion of the future will fight and illustrate why it will be decisive on the future battlefield.
Interchangeable C2 refers to how company and battalion command centers operate and relate to one another. On the future battlefield, survivability will depend in large part on reducing a unit’s signature and improving its mobility, enabled by the ability to shift command and control of an area of operations. The design increases company staff capacity and communications capabilities, allowing for companies to control battalion battlespace for a limited duration, ultimately providing the battalion with five C2 nodes. Redundancy is a must, so the design leverages the companies for C2 redundancy, increasing the formation’s resilience and survivability.
The company’s increased C2 capacity is both required by and facilitates hunter-killer pairing at echelon. In this context, hunters are sensing assets, and killers are kinetic weapons, generally a UAS and a loitering munition, respectively. The new formation boasts a dramatic increase in precision fires capabilities, and ensures the employing units retain the organic capability to find targets for these weapons. This results in loitering munitions at the squad, platoon, company, and battalion level with UASs at the same echelon that match the munition’s duration and range. The munitions gradually increase in capability, from anti-personnel to anti-armor. Together these systems enable every unit to precisely engage an enemy from—and into—defilade and organically counter otherwise overwhelming enemy direct-fire.
Hub and spoke operations refer to the ability of any unit to take control of either UAS or loitering munitions post-launch. Because Marines at the tactical edge can take terminal control of loitering munitions, employing a higher echelon system is simplified. The squad can bring all the company’s firepower, itself dramatically increased, to bear on the enemies it can see, adapting to real-time changes. All these changes, in the context of more distributed operations, alter our understanding of mutual support. The company can launch an anti-armor loitering munition and send it 40km across land or water to a platoon or squad that takes control and strikes a target. Hub and spoke operations are a foundational tactic enabling distributed operations.
These three concepts paint the picture of a dispersed and distributed battalion surviving by limiting physical mass and constantly moving, leveraging, and communicating the findings of its wealth of sensors to open and close kill webs and empowering its unit leaders with sensors and precision fires across great distances. The vision reflects the Commandant’s demand to counter the adversary’s precision fires and sensing regimes with independent and capable subordinate units, resiliency in the formation, and broad employability of sensors and fires across the unit.
The Commandant’s Decision
Combining these more conceptual observations on the shift in how the infantry battalion fights with concrete notes on how the units performed, MCWL coalesced its two years of experimentation into recommendations briefed at the Ground Board, a collection of general-officer level stakeholders in the ground combat element and Headquarters Marine Corps, in May 2022. With Ground Board approval, the recommendations were forwarded to the CMC for a final decision. Once decided, the changes were formalized in a memorandum from Deputy Commandant, Concept Development and Integration.
The approved recommendations include establishing an organic battalion ground intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance unit (the scout platoon); adding one ammunition Marine per tube within the 81mm mortar platoon; retaining the 0352 and 0331 MOS’s while adding a machinegun section and re-organizing company-level crew-served weapons; returning key enablers to headquarters and service company; and removing one Marine from each rifle squad. These recommendations resulted in a battalion staffing level of 811 Marines.4
Taken together these changes address observations from experimentation on where the 735-Marine battalion cut existing structure too deeply when aligned against current manning, training, and equipping capabilities of the Corps. With the CMC’s decision and execution of these intermediate changes Service-wide, the Marine infantry battalion will remain lethal in the conflicts of the present day and the future.
After accepting these recommendations, the CMC directed MCWL to continue experimentation with the 811-Marine battalion during IBX30 Phase II. To achieve the optimal force by 2030, we must continue iterating on the infantry battalion’s design, perfecting it over time and continued effort. Phase II has already begun and will continue for the next three years. But as MCWL focuses efforts on 2/7 Mar and 3/4 Mar, we will continue to listen to feedback from the broader fleet.5 While focused experimentation can produce data and concentrated specific findings, fleetwide experimentation will continue to drive the Marine Corps forward. It is for this reason, to unlock and encourage units across the Marine Corps to experiment on their own, that MCWL released its NeXt File on IBX Phase I, the location of which can be found in MARADMIN 618/22.6 Additionally, reports from Phase I of experimentation are accessible on Intelink.7
The final result of IBX Phase I reflects the original vision of a distributed-operations capable formation while mitigating risk by accounting for the pace of institutional change. The 811-Marine design incorporates new capabilities to stay ahead of changes in modern war, without reducing our capacity in the most basic and fundamental infantry missions today. As the FMF transitions and adapts to the new battalion, experimental exercises, reports, and feedback will help optimize this new design and inform the Service about the unit’s capabilities and how to obtain the best tactical results. MCWL will continue to experiment, but the FMF will drive the Marine Corps forward.
This refinement of the infantry battalion will continue concurrently with another FD2030 priority: the Marine Littoral Regiment. The current Service focus is experimenting with and refining the Marine Littoral Regiment design while establishing future Marine Littoral Regiments. MCWL’s IBX Phase II experimentation, data collection, and analysis directly contributes to the concurrent effort with Marine Littoral Regiment experimentation given the battalion’s role as the base unit of the Littoral Combat Team. Together, these lines of effort will feed MCWL’s recommendations for and the Service’s refinement of the future force.
There remains much work to shape the Service, and the more all Marines contribute to the solution, the faster it will happen and the better the results will be. Across the Corps, all units, organizations, and Marines have a stake in FD2030’s success. This is the Marine Corps our country is counting on to compete, deter, and win America’s future battles.
1. Headquarters Marine Corps, MARADMIN 618/22, Update to MCWL Information Sharing with the Fleet Marine Force, (Washington, DC: November 2022).
2. Integrated Planning Team, Draft Infantry Battalion Design IPT Report dtd 5 May 20.
4. Headquarters Marine Corps, Marine Corps Bulletin 3120, Marine Corps Global Force Management and Force Synchronization, (Washington, DC: August 2020).
5. Headquarters Marine Corps, Warning Order to Force Design Infantry Battalion/CMC PPO POF, 08/09/2022, 18:33:33, (Washington, DC: August 2022).
6. The IBX30 Phase I X-File is currently available for anyone with a .mil address. To read the full X-File follow the link found at https://www.marines.mil/News/Messages/Messages-Display/Article/3227550/update-to-mcwl-information-sharing-with-the-fleet-marine-force.
7. Location of all IBX Phase I Reports: https://intelshare.intelink.gov/sites/mcwl/ExDivReports/_layouts/15/start.aspx#.