The US Marine Corps has recently undergone a top down doctrinal reevaluation of its future role. As part of these changes in the make up of the Corps have been planned and now a brand new initiative has also been launched – Marine Corps Systems Command’s Program Manager for Infantry Weapons has begun a large-scale modernisation program to increase the lethality of the Marine infantry squad.
The efforts are part of Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. David Berger’s vision to redesign the Corps to meet future challenges. Lt. Col. Tim Hough, MCSC’s program manager for Infantry Weapons, called it “the largest modernization of the infantry squad in the last 25 years.”
This modernisation project will not only see the USMC become a corp part of the US Army’s Next Generation Squad Weapon Program but it will also see the completion of the general adoption of the M27 IAR as the Corps’ standard issue rifle and the procurement of a series of accessories, optics and communications kit that will enhance the lethality of Marine infantry.
The USMC has previously signalled their involvement in the NGSW program but this is the first confirmation that if the program is successful, the 6.8mm NGSW-R will likely be the weapon which replaces the M27. Maj. Mike Brisker, weapons product manager for PM IW said that the Marine Corps could receive the first deliveries of the NGSW as early as the fiscal year 2025. To put that into perspective, the US Army expects to procure its first batch of weapons in 2021, with a total of over 90,000 rifles delivered by 2024, and a further 54,000 delivered in FY2025. We broke down the projected numbers from the US Army’s projected 2021 budget here.
Marine Corps officials told TFB that:
Marine Corps is participating in and providing significant support to the Army’s development of Next Generation Squad Weapons (NGSW), to include Soldier Touchpoint. We collaborate on many efforts with the Army to ensure we take advantage of both services’ research and development efforts to field the best capabilities to our warfighters.
What is currently unclear is how this move will impact the USMC squad loadout doctrine with the M249 belt-fed light machine gun replaced by the M27. The selection of the NGSW-Automatic Rifle from either SIG Sauer or Textron would see the Corps move back to a belt-fed weapon. In contrast the box magazine fed rifle and automatic rifle from General Dynamics would see a continuation of the Marine Corps magazine fed doctrine.
If one of the belt-feds entries are selected, however, this would mark a shift back to suppression through volume of fire rather than precision. Of course, it may be that the USMC choose to simply adopt the NGSW-R to replace the M27.
We asked the USMC whether they would shift back to a belt-fed if the Army selects one of the belt-fed NGSW-AR options. Marine Corps officials explained that they:
…will continue to participate in and assess NGSW solutions for maturity, suitability and affordability to meet our operational requirements in order to inform a decision on if and when to begin procurement of these improved capabilities.
Marine Corps Systems Command’s Program Manager for Infantry Weapons will also oversee the roll out of the new Squad Common Optic, from Trijicon, and the helmet-mounted Squad Binocular Night Vision Goggle. PM IW and Fleet Marines are participating in the Army’s Integrated Visual Augmentation System, which our sister site Overt Defense has covered here. The new Enhanced Night Vision-Binocular program is also underway.
“…We’re looking to lighten the load and increase the overall lethality of Close Combat Forces—specifically infantry Marines. These efforts show we are focused on staying abreast of advancements that are coming quickly.” said CW4 David Tomlinson, an infantry weapons officer with PM IW.