Laser Range Finders at the USMC Squad Level

Marine Corps Times has reported that Marine Corps Systems Command (MARCORSYSCOM) is in the process of evaluating a number of either picatinny mounted or scope integrated laser range finders to issue at the squad leader level in the infantry. The budget for the system is around $16 Million, with the overall goal to get 1,800 units to the Fleet by 2018, with full issue ending in 2021. The article mentioned that the price for such a unit could be $10,000, which is quite expensive for a rangefinder, but there is probably more to it in the contract details than what the article mentions.

The article specifically mentions the need for such a rangefinder because of the fire support assets such as fixed or rotary wing support, to artillery and 60mm/81mm mortar systems at the company/battalion level. Because calling in Close Air Support (CAS) is routinely confined to forward observers (JTACs), there could be some openings for squad leaders to attend schooling that although wouldn’t make them fully JTAC qualified, it could allow some of the CAS capabilities to come into usage. Usually an infantry company downrange is afforded a JTAC team consisting of a JTAC officer and his radio operators, but this number increases when Scout Sniper teams are divided up in a battalion because being JTAC qualified is a capability that these platoons can bring to the table.

The Australian Army has already began a service wide issue of laser range finders at the individual soldier level with procurement from L-3. Having a laser range finder within a conventional infantry squad would greatly add to the effectiveness of the squad’s call for fire missions, in addition it would increase the squad’s small arms effects on target by being able to provide an accurate distance from which to engage and set reticles at. The number of 1,800 units might seem small when looking at the amount of infantry squads in the Marine infantry. But some quick math reveals 648 squad leader billets from the eight active duty infantry battalions in the Fleet. This would leave enough left over to arm the Reserve component, in addition to other units such as Recon and LAR that would also see a use for such a device.

Pictured is an AN/PSQ-23, which began under an Army acquisitions solicitation, seen some operational issue, but was overall decided to be too heavy and bulky (by MARCORSYSCOM as well) for further usage.



Miles

Infantry Marine, based in the Midwest. Specifically interested in small arms history, development, and usage within the MENA region and Central Asia. To that end, I run Silah Report, a website dedicated to analyzing small arms history and news out of MENA and Central Asia. You can also follow us on Twitter- @Silah_Report

Please feel free to get in touch with me about something I can add to a post, an error I’ve made, or if you just want to talk guns. I can be reached at miles@tfb.tv


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  • VanDiemensLand

    ok.

  • Minuteman

    Nyet, rifle is fine. You want to keep everything separate. Because if one device fails, only that particular device fails, instead of an entire integrated device failing as a result of a subcomponent error. So, no, this is a most unwise idea. I am totally against integrated, all encompassing devices.

    • Bierstadt54

      As far as I am concerned, there is complicated design and then there is sophisticated design. A complicated design can, as you say, fail utterly because of a subcomponent error and then be a useless brick. A sophisticated design can handle failure and still be useful. It is the complicated design, evolved to be reliable in the real world. I am a fan of sophisticated design.

      I will also note that a smartphone is an integrated, all-encompassing device, and I rather doubt you would like to carry with you all the things it has replaced. For this particular application, though, I would think that a rangefinding binocular would be what they want, or should want.

      • Minuteman

        The only reliable integrated device I know of is the Rheinmetall LLM-01. But it’s a little dated by now. I rather keep the laser designator and flashlight separate. Keep everything simple and basic. Agreed on the binos with range finding capability. Vectronix is what they are looking for.

        • FarmerB

          Man, that stuff is heavy and bulky though.

          • Minuteman

            Luckily we don’t need it 😉

    • iksnilol

      Parallell connections are a thing.

  • DanGoodShot

    $10,000 for a couple range finders and you think there’s more to it?? It’s being procured by our government. What did you expect from an entity that spends $600 on a toilet seat for Marine One. So that $10,000 sounds like a bargain to me!

    • Blake

      What a well thought-out and logical statement. I mean, we all know the department outfitting the President’s transportation is the same department buying combat gear. We all hate that one magical department, right?!?!

      • DanGoodShot

        Seriously? Yeah, it is. It’s called the US Government. I don’t give a rat’s @ss what sub-department of that it is. They all have the same mindset. They get to over spend our money. As someone who has worked in a few different sectors of government I can tell you firsthand, whether it’s federal, state, military or the civilian sectors ALL government entities are the kings of overspending. I stand firmly by my initial statement. Just do a half a minute of research into how much each sector over pays for items. It’s a well-known, ongoing “joke” of every government supplier, “Oh, it’s for the government? Mark up!!! x 10!”

        • Blake

          As a testament to just how stupid it is to equate ‘some / a few’ with ‘all’ I work for a government contractor right now, and every bid we place is insanely competitive, we’re lucky if we can get 15 points on an order. We don’t get most of what we bid for because people are constantly undercutting each other to the point where it’s incredibly hard to win a bid and make any money. These are contracts for our base in South Korea, our prison system, AFBes, etc. With a group of people as diverse as “the government” that’s just as ridiculous as saying ‘all white/black/asian people are/do X’. Yeah, there’s an extremely worn stereotype about government departments wasting money, and our weapon development process is absurd, but it’s beyond ridiculous to say “I have worked at a few of them, so I know how they all work” and it just makes you look absurd.

  • Ron

    There are two types of JTAC qualified personnel in the Marine Corps, 7502s who are winged aviation officers and are either FACs or Air Officers and than there are 8002 JTACs. A rifle squad leader will not be able to become an 8002 until he is a 0369 SNCO. You have be either a Sgt 0861 (field artillery scout observer) or a combat arms SNCO or Officer to attend the JTAC course at either of the EWTGs and receive the MOS.
    Normally you will send a select few to the JFO, joint fires observer course. JFOs bring a joint certification to what we expect 0861s and 0802s to be able to do and are close to the original goal of a universal observer concept that became JTACs because the Air Force wanted to stick controls on JTACs in the name of minimizing collateral damage.
    A non-weapon mounted LRF is probable better than a weapons mounted LRF for this purpose, for laser employment it probably better to give the user a cross hair to put on the target for the three burst of a laser.

    • Noble

      Agreed. Last conversation I had on the topic of JTACs suggested that there aren’t enough assets (aviation support, training slots at WTI, etc..) to train even the current/required number of JTACs in the Corps, let alone anyone else. I was interested in pursuing a JTAC qual a while back (I’m a 7208).

  • Ron

    Pre-Trump increases there are 24 Infantry Bns, 3 LAR, 3 Recon plus a lesser amount required for engineers, tanks, ANGLICOs and arty. On the reserve side of the house there are 8 Infantry, 1 LAR and 1 Recon, not to mention the ANGLICOs, Arty etc. The Marine Corps unlike the Army does a total force approach to fielding gear, so the active component and the reserve component pretty mirror fielding and in some case the reserves will get the gear first.

  • RSG

    The AN/PSQ-23 Storm is deceivingly enormous, besides being discontinued by Eotech. The $8500 price tag probably had something to do with that in addition to being the size and weight of a brick. It’s not all that practical until it can be delivered in a package the size of a standard DBAL, imo. Would love to have a commercial unit with integrated laser, someday.

  • Ben Singleton

    Why should the average squad leader be calling for fire? Theres a community that specializes in fire support, leave them to their work.

    • Ron

      Cannot say it is extremely common but it happens, And accurate range is important for more than just calling in mortars, arty or air.

    • Geoff Timm

      There’s never a fire control party around when you need one. I like the idea of a squad leader being able to designate a target, we have the capabilities, just need to package them into something usable. Of course I liked PGM mortar rounds, all of which were cancelled in US Service…last I heard. Geoff Who is pessimistic about DoD doing anything logical.

    • some other joe

      I don’t know, because calling for fire is a -20 level basic Soldier task? That’s team leader level, so I guess you’re right; the squad leader shouldn’t do it, one of his team leaders should.