Infantry Marines from Battalion Landing Team 3/5 aboard the 31st MEU are currently participating in Talisman Saber 2017, a joint U.S. and Australian training exercise working on the amphibious and warfighting capabilities of both forces. However, more than a standard bilateral training exercise, the “Dark Horse” Battalion is involved in a testing regime called SEA DRAGON 2025. The Marines are testing numerous technological advances in addition to the reliability of PMAGs in their live fire and patrolling. The PMAGs were approved earlier by a number of Marine Gunners, hoping to increase reliability and reduction of weight on the infantrymen. Specifically, with 3/5 it appears that only the Infantrymen are being issued a full combat load of PMAGs and not any of the supporting elements such as the Combat Engineers that are attached. The particular PMAGs in question are the Gen3s, which can actually fit in the M27 IAR’s magazine well, unlike earlier versions of PMAGs. This was one of the sticking points about the polymer magazines when the M27 was first introduced and why they were eventually banned within the infantry. DVIDS has a number of photographs that showcase this effort, and we pulled photographs from the website for this post.
Surefire SOCOM Suppressors also appear to be trialed, but on a much more limited basis, with M4A1s issued out to certain platoons in 3/5. Full suppressor adoption is still probably a long way off for conventional issue, due to the volume of fire that conventional forces typically employ as opposed to special operations groups. Sustained fire will heat the suppressors up much more, and can influence point of impact.
Not mentioned, but 3/5 appears to have a new bipod mounted on the Battalion’s M240Bs. Older bipods are square in design while this one looks to be round, and might even be adjustable.
Not shown on DVIDS, but perhaps indicative of a technology that will pave the way for a better command and control capability on the battlefield are the use of drones not only at the company level, but being pushed to the small unit level of squads. The integration of surveillance drones at the squad level is a huge development that if developed and used effectively can have devastating capabilities on the battlefield. Right now it appears the 3/5 is restructuring the rifle squad so that the squad leader’s Assistant Patrol Leader will be running the drone, pushing data to both the squad leader and his superiors. Although drones have been in use within the Infantry since OIF and OEF, it has only been a company or even battalion level asset, run as a very time-consuming operation. The earlier Dragon Eye, and much later adopted Puma UAVs proved to be very effective in Afghanistan and Iraq, however there were never enough of them to reach their full potential. Ironically, it looks like Daesh actually has the upper hand in this drone battle through extensive use in Iraq and Syria both for ISR and actual munitions dropping. The UAVs aren’t pictured, but we did spy this Android based tablet that officers are wearing as a chest mounted digital device. It appears that this device is connected and tied into the UAV footage. This particular Marine actually isn’t an officer but a Staff Sergeant, most likely an LAV platoon commander.