Local officials deal another blow to Marine high-tech exercise

OAKLAND, Calf.—The Marine Corps today canceled an amphibious landing scheduled for tomorrow that would have kicked off a major high-tech military exercise here, after local officials cited environmental concerns.

Officials from the California Coastal Commission expressed concern about the Marines' planned use of amphibious hovercraft to land troops on the beaches near Monterey, Calif., in the start of the Marines' Urban Warrior exercise, the culmination of a series of experiments to test new concepts and technologies for fighting throughout the streets, buildings and sewers of the world's urban areas.

"The Coastal Commission was concerned about the [impact on] marine mammals and other endangered species," said Col. Mark Thiffault, director of the joint information bureau of Urban Warrior. However, "the remainder of the exercise will proceed as scheduled."

Although somewhat artificial in nature, the Marines will be ferrying troops ashore in helicopters to a local civilian airport and then will transport them to exercise areas using buses, according to Thiffault.

With Urban Warrior, the Marines plan to test how technologies such as palmtop computers, unmanned aerial vehicles and Global Positioning System-enhanced parachutes can give Marines more information about the battlefield and therefore an edge in fighting in cities.

But the Marines have had trouble convincing metropolitan officials in California to allow them to use their city as a mock battleground. In January, San Francisco and the Golden Gate National Recreation Area turned down the Marines' request to use national park lands for Urban Warrior because of environmental and safety concerns.

Although Thiffault said the exercise will continue as planned, the changes will not affect experiments involving command, control, communications, computers and intelligence systems. The Marines designed Urban Warrior in part to address the problem of C4I systems overcoming interference caused by concrete walls, phone lines, electronic devices and buildings.

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