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NEWS | July 7, 2024

CLB-15 Marines Innovate Tactical Resupply with Unmanned Aircraft in the Philippines

By Capt. Brian Tuthill, 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit

As part of experimentation for expeditionary resupply concepts, Combat Logistics Battalion 15, 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, recently employed the Tactical Resupply Unmanned Aircraft System during Exercise Balikatan 24 and Archipelagic Coastal Defense Continuum in the Philippines throughout April and May 2024.

During Balikatan and ACDC, CLB-15 used the TRUAS to conduct a series of resupply missions to various sites on Palawan Island to gain proficiency and provide feedback on the best use of the system in a deployed environment.

The TRUAS, a Class 3 unmanned aerial system, can deliver critical supplies to remote and inaccessible areas with unprecedented speed and precision. Engineered for autonomous operation, the TRUAS successfully navigated the challenging Philippine terrain and demonstrated how emerging unmanned technology, coupled with traditional ground-based resupply methods, could overcome logistical obstacles.

"The TRUAS revolutionizes our resupply capabilities in austere, contested environments and lightens tactical loads to improve survivability and maneuverability," said 1st Lt. Robert R. Lebron, the platoon commander of Combat Logistics Platoon 1, CLB-15, and native of Illinois. "It represents UAS technology that will provide an autonomous, organic logistics capability for distribution of up to 150 pounds of critical supplies for squad-size elements. It’s highly-automated and has pinpoint accuracy that enables us to sustain operations in areas previously inaccessible to traditional resupply methods, enhancing our agility and operational tempo.”

The system is capable of carrying 150 pounds of cargo miles away that could include an array of supplies — including ammunition, food, water, medical equipment, batteries, and communication gear — to units at dispersed sites across maritime or land-based locations, to include expeditionary advance bases, said Maj. Jon TenBrock, the operations officer of CLB-15 and a New York native.

“The TRUAS is a man-portable and intuitive system which provides redundancy in the capability of how we distribute critical supplies across the battlespace,” said Cpl. Francisco G. PallanesAlejo, the senior UAV operator with CLB-15 and a native of Nevada. “The ability to employ TRUAS with other surface connectors greatly increases our ability to maximize combat power ashore.”

CLB-15’s TRUAS currently supports 15th MEU forces operating in the Indo-Pacific aboard the amphibious dock landing ship USS Harpers Ferry (LSD 49). Meanwhile, CLB-15’s Marines continue to employ and experiment with the TRUAS at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, and the unit is scheduled to receive additional TRUAS units in coming years to expand their capabilities.

As CLB-15 uses the TRUAS to support the forward deployed elements of the 15th MEU, they will continue to provide information to refine the design of the system as well as inform the Marine Corps on how the service can best employ the TRUAS in expeditionary environments as new units are fielded, said TenBrock.The 15th MEU is under the command and control of Commander, Task Force 76, which the U.S. 7th Fleet employs to cooperate with allies and partners to preserve a free and open Indo-Pacific.