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.