Recently Soldier Systems and Military.com reported on two separate equipment events within the United States Marine Corps that may signal a monumental shift in the institutional thinking of The Corps: the request for more M27 IARs and the expanded use of suppressors among several tests battalions.
Approximately three days ago, Soldier Systems and TFB reported that the Marines “…Begin Process to Issue M27 IAR to every Rifleman” and that that “USMC Releases RFI for 11,000 more IARs”. Far from being baseless claims, the news from Soldier Systems and TFB was directly sourced from an industry request for information (RFI) that the Marine Corps put out seeking the feasibility of actually getting the rifles and their related accessories, including slings, maintenance kits, spare parts, etc. Interestingly enough, the optics were specifically left out of the RFI, which would signal to me that the Corps intends on sticking with their Trijicon RCOs and Squad Day Optics (SDOs), which are battle proven and universally well liked by their users. Although the initial RFI sought figures for 11,000 new IARs, the actual production number once in progress would probably be much higher if the running theory is correct: replacing every M4 and M16A4 in the infantry battalions with the IAR.
The idea that the Marine Corps would issue a fully automatic rifle to every Rifleman is certainly a shift from post Vietnam era thinking that focused on individual marksmanship and the conservation of ammunition. The M16A2/A4 were specifically built with the burst receivers, the idea being that this would prevent the average grunt from panic dumping all of their ammunition. It seems that the Marine Corps is coming to a new realization that that modern warfare is heavily dependent on rapidly establishing fire superiority. However, one of the reasons the Marine Corps has become so fond of the M27 is that it’s a fantastically accurate weapon and also excels in the Squad Designated Marksman role. Now that’s the Marine Corps that I know… one that still focuses on individual marksmanship. So it would seem on the one hand the Marine Corps is actually changing its views on modern combat doctrine (in an institution that usually throws out common sense and change) and better adopting itself to the “three block war” while simultaneously embracing their heritage: exceptional shooting.
Interesting to note that although H&K recently announced a big expansion of its production facilities in the US, they’re not specifically named in the RFI. Could the production of the M27 be licensed out to other big contractors? Personally, I’d buy an FN IAR…
Further more, Military.com reported in November of 2016 about the wide spread use of suppressors battalion wide in a few “experimental” battalions. The primary argument for their use, as supported by the Gunners (Infantry Warrant Officers) of their respective battalions, is that quieter weapons make it easier to communicate during a firefight.Logistics aside, quieting the standard infantry weapons in the fleet might actually prove cheaper than providing individual comms and electronic ear pro for every grunt. Although to my knowledge no manufacturer has been specifically mentioned, I would bet money on KAC or GemTech providing a reasonable solution based on their long history of government contracts and their ability to produce a can that mounts to the standard A2 flash hider.
Will these changes role out as requested? Only time will tell. At the beginning of his time as Commandant, Gen. Neller at one point spoke out against the further issue of equipment among Marines, saying that the Corps had turned to “Gucci gear” and was losing touch with its fighting spirit. However, both of these proposed changes could lead to a drastically more efficient fighting force that fundamentally improves the Marine Corps ability to do what its always been best at: kill America’s enemies.
Semper Fidelis. I hope you guys get hooked up.