USMC Makes Significant Change to The Ground Combat Element


It is clear that with the strategic shift from the primacy of counter insurgency missions to operations in a contested environment, significant changes can be expected from the ground maneuver forces. For the Marines, changes are induced as well by the air combat capabilities already in the Corps and being added in the period ahead.

During a recent visit to Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, we had a chance to talk with the Marines about their latest WTI course which provides on hands experience with regar dto drving change. The WTI courses or exercises are at the heart of what Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron One or MAWTS does.

We will be providing interviews in the near future on what we saw and discussed with the Marines at MAWTS and the combat innovations which they are focused upon.

The Marines recently announced major changes to the structure and equipment of the ground combat forces aimed at improving survivability, lethality and agility on the battlefield, notably in a contested environment.

In an article by Matthew M. Burke, published in Stars and Stripes on May 15, 2018, these changes were described:

The number of Marines in a rifle squad will be decreased from 13 to 12. The service will also add more automatic weapons, drones and all-terrain vehicles, while improving night optics, grenade launchers and shoulder-fired rockets

The Marines are fast-tracking some of the changes, but others will be phased in over the next three to five years.

“The surest way to prevent war is to be prepared to dominate one,” Neller said in a Marine Corps statement. “And that is what we are going to do.”

The Marines sent an experimental unit to Okinawa in May 2017 to test various unit sizes, concepts and technologies as the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit’s ground-combat element. The systems were on full display during last summer’s Talisman Saber drills in Australia.

Some of the changes are being made to the fundamental makeup of the Marines’ smallest ground units.

A rifle squad — whose mission is to “locate, close with, and destroy the enemy by fire and maneuver, or repel the enemy’s assault by fire and close combat,” a Marine Corps instruction said — has typically consisted of 13 Marines.

Each squad includes three fire teams of four Marines each, built around a single automatic weapon and led by a sergeant serving as squad leader. Fire teams include a corporal fire-team leader or grenadier, two lance corporals — one with an automatic rifle and another assisting — and a private or private first class serving as rifleman.

Under Neller’s changes, fire teams will now feature three Marines, Capt. Ryan Alvis wrote in a statement. All will be armed with an M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle with suppressors and improved optics.

Though fire teams are losing a Marine, they are gaining two automatic weapons, giving each squad a total of 12….

The Marines will also immediately begin distributing quadcopter drones to every squad. Platoons will gain a drone operator, and rifle companies will get a counter-drone section of five Marines.

Marine squads will also receive improved binocular night-vision devices and improved optics that include thermal capability and improved M320 grenade launchers.

They will gain additional firepower and rocket range as the Multi-Role Anti-Armor Anti-Personnel Weapon System, known as MAAWS or the “Carl Gustav,” replaces the Mk-153 Shoulder-Launched Multipurpose Assault Weapon, or SMAW.

Squads will also get handheld devices that provide a digital link to close-air support and adjacent units, and an M38 Squad Designated Marksmanship Rifle with a suppressor and variable 2.5-8 power optic, the statement said.

The M38 is not a sniper rifle, but provides improved identification and engagement of targets up to 600 meters away. Marines carrying it will be required to complete additional training on range estimation, scope theory and observation.

For the complete article, see the following:

The featured photo shows Marines and contractors flying drones during a demonstration at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va., March 14, 2018.