The U.S. Marine Corps is changing the size and makeup of the Marine infantry squad, making drone and counter-drone specialists a permanent part of the force structure, and bringing back tank and artillery units that had been deactivated to save money. It's a series of moves meant to keep the force as agile and deadly as ever.
that the changes are the result of two years of internal experimentation within USMC. Marine Corps Force 2025 and Sea Dragon 2025 were two forward-looking programs that studied the future of warfare, particularly with regards to unmanned systems, small unit lethality, and what it would take to prevail on the battlefields of 2025. The results will be implemented across all Marine infantry units, with a completion date of roughly 2024.
The first reform is a package of changes to the Marine infantry squad, the building block of the entire service. U.S. Army infantry squads consist of a squad leader and two four-fire teams, for a total of nine soldiers. The Marine Corps, on the other hand, has typically used three fire teams made up of four Marines each, with one squad leader, for a total of 13 Marines per squad. The Marine squad can stay combat effective in the face of heavy casualties, and the presence of three fire teams gives the squad leader greater tactical flexibility over his Army counterpart.
Under the new structure, a USMC squad will drop to 12 Marines each, with three fire teams of three Marines. The squad leader will be the tenth Marine, while an assistant squad leader and a quadcopter drone operator will be the 11th and 12th Marines.
All Marines will have M27 Infantry Automatic Rifles with “improved optics,” a step up from existing M4 carbines, and all M27s will sport suppressors to reduce their noise level on the battlefield. Squads will also get digital communications devices to link up with nearby air and ground units, as well as enhanced night vision devices.
The result is a squad that can fight day or night, deliver more accurate fire, and integrate drones and digital communications tech. Suppressors will allow squad leaders to be heard on the battlefield at further distances, allowing Marine infantry units to spread out across more territory without losing the ability to share information and take orders.
In addition to the M27 IAR, each squad will rock a M38 Squad Designated Marksman Rifle, a version of the M27 with a Leupold 2.5 x 8 rifle scope capable of engaging targets out to 600 meters.
Drone technology will be integrated down to the lowest levels of the force. In addition to the squad quadcopter, each platoon will have a drone, and there will be troops at the company level with counter-drone technology. In other words, there will be approximately one drone per 30 marines on the battlefield, a number so far unmatched in professional ground forces.
Elsewhere, new weapons will replace old ones. will replace the older M203, and the (also known as the Carl Gustav 84-millimeter recoilless rifle) will replace the 1980s-vintage . Marine battalions will lose four older TOW heavy anti-tank guided missiles, but add four newer, smaller, more portable . Battalions will lose two 81-millimeter mortars, but existing mortars will “pack a bigger punch” with ammunition improvements.
Meanwhile, the 2nd Marine Division’s tank battalion, 2nd Tanks, will grow by 50 percent, adding a third company of 14 M1A1 Abrams tanks. The battalion, which used to have approximately 60 tanks in four companies, in the last five years to restructuring. The Marines will bring back the 5th Battalion, 10th Marines, an artillery battalion that is set to be equipped with the HIMARS mobile rocket launcher system.
This set of changes by the Marines demonstrates exactly how military reform should work. The Marines set out to determine exactly what they’d need to fight and win the battles of 2025... and the entire Corps will implement the prescribed changes by 2025. In other services, a date like that is an eye-roller that nobody takes seriously. The Marines didn’t look for magic solutions to become ten times better, but are implementing a raft of realistic, smaller solutions that will create a ripple effect across the entire Marine Corps. The Corps, and the nation, will benefit.