Tag Archives: marine

Suitcased-Sized Marine Eyeball and Targeting Teams

Earlier this summer, members of Task Force 61 Naval Amphibious Forces Europe/2d Marine Division (TF-61/2), operating under U.S. Sixth Fleet, joined their Estonian counterparts to kick off exercise Siil 22, also known in English as Exercise Hedgehog 22. While not a large force of Marines involved, TF-61/2 took advantage of the deployment to test out the new Commandant’s concept for Stand-in Forces (SIF) to generate small, highly versatile units that integrate Marine Corps and Navy forces and have “multi-domain reconnaissance and counter-reconnaissance (RXR)” capabilities.

When talking of Maritime Awareness in 2022, the above references little groups of Marines– a team small enough to be inserted in a UH-1Y Venom which can only lift 8-10 combat-loaded men– equipped with back-packable/UTV-mountable Small Form Factor surface search radars, SATCOM, small UAS, and enhanced observation telescopes/binos to provide actionable intelligence and targeting data to upper headquarters.

Check out the highlight reel:

Highly mobile SATCOM on a UTV:

U.S. Marines with 2nd Marine Division test a Small Form Factor Satellite Communication (SATCOM) on the move (SOTM) device, while it’s attached to a Utility Task Vehicle (UTV) on Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, April 10, 2019. The CopaSAT STORM is a replacement for the current Networking on the move (NOTM) system, which will allow Marines better communication services while stationary or forward deployed. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Nathaniel Q. Hamilton)

The Marines in the video are shown with Lockheed-Martin’s Stalker VXE Block 30 VTOL UAV, which can be shipped in three large pelican-style cases.

Another new tool is the Next-Generation Handheld Targeting System, or NGHTS, which allows the deployment of laser designation and target location at extended ranges, day and night, in a GPS-denied environment with high accuracy and “allows Marines to prosecute targets at increased standoff ranges.” 

MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO, Va. – Marine peers through a prototype version of the Next-Generation Handheld Targeting System, March 2021 at U.S. Army Garrison Fort A.P. Hill, Virginia. The Next-Generation Handheld Targeting System, or NGHTS, is an innovative, man-portable targeting system allowing Marines to rapidly and accurately conduct target location and laser guidance during combat operations. Photo By: MCSC_OPAC

More on NGHTS: 
Years of market research, technology maturity and miniaturization resulted in NGHTS. The unit, lighter and less bulky than past targeting systems, includes a selective availability anti-spoofing module GPS, a celestial day and night compass, a digital magnetic compass, a laser designator and a laser range finder, all in a single handheld system weighing less than ten pounds.

The Marines have recently been fielding more AN/TPS-80 Ground/Air Task Oriented Radar (GATOR) systems, including one in Estonia but there may be something smaller at play here that was kept off-camera.

GATOR, for reference:

All in all, this all seems right on point for use across nameless Pacific atolls in addition to its already-interesting use in the Baltic.

The typical Devil Squad is changing, due to the M27

U.S. Marines with 3rd Battalion 8th Marine Regiment fire the M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle during a live-fire weapons exercise at range F-18 on Camp Lejeune, N.C., Dec. 8, 2017

The building block of every infantry platoon in the Marines is the squad, currently a 13-strong unit. Under the new format, it will shrink by one to 12 and constrict the size of each fire team from four to three members, but the number of M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle systems will swell as every member will carry one, effectively tripling the current volume of fire available to the unit, according to officials. Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. Robert Neller said the development will make the squad “more lethal, agile and capable.”

While the unit has given up their M249 Squad Automatic Weapons — the U.S. version of the FN Minimi — the M27 has taken the place of that belt-fed weapon and will by 2020 phase out the M4 rifles in the squad, upping the number of the modified select-fire variant of the HK416 5.56mm gas piston rifle per squad from three to 12.

And that’s just the start of the changes.

The rest in my column at Guns.com

1945: ‘A sniper is near’

“A Sniper is Near, and the Man Pointing has Located Him, Directing the Sharpshooter to his Whereabouts,” by Marine combat artist Harry Reeks (1921-1982). Via Prints, Drawings, and Watercolors from the Anne S.K. Brown Military Collection. Brown Digital Repository. Brown University Library.

Description: A Marine sharpshooter stands in profile with a rifle in hand, as another Marine points in front of them. The background of the image is left blank.

A reply to LCpl Joe Hickey from the Gipper, 34 years ago today

Via the Marine Corps History Division:

You’ve heard the quote by President Reagan; do you know where it comes from? You do now! Thanks to our friends at the Reagan Library for doing the digging to find this.

The 1983 Beirut barracks bombing would occur exactly a month to the day after this letter was written, claiming the lives of 241 U.S. peacekeepers (primarily of 1st Battalion/8th Marines), 58 French peacekeepers (of the 3rd Company of the 1st Parachute Chasseur Regiment), and six civilians.

New skins for an old warrior

When my grandfather joined the National Guard at 17, but before he headed off to war on active duty, he bought a “fighing knife” from a local hardware store as any strapping youth in olive drab needed just such the item.

It was a PAL RH-36.

The PAL Cutlery Company of Plattsburgh, NY. was established in 1935, specializing in kitchen implements. The company was a merger of the Utica Knife & Razor Company of Utica, NY and the Pal Blade Company of Chicago, IL. Pal used both the “Blade Company” and “Cutlery Company” monikers interchangeably during the next two decades until they went out of business in 1953. They purchased the cutlery division of Remington in 1939, along with all of their machinery, tooling and designs and soon began production in the old Remington owned factory in Holyoke, MA.

The design of the RH-36 came from that Remington acquisition, as the designations meant “Remington, Hunting, Pattern 3, 6” blade”. These were one of the most common US fighting knives of WWII, these were bought by all branches during the war, often with unit funds, and were also available as private purchase knives– such as my gramps.

Overall length is 11-inches with the razor-sharp blade just over 6, thus balancing well. Though some blades were parkerized, this one is bright though there is some patina. The old “PAL RH-36” markings are clear on the ricasso. The leather washer grip with red spacers is still tight, though dark. The pommel and guard are still surprisingly tight after more a half-century of use.

It has been sharpened and resharpened perhaps hundreds of times and was used by my grandfather overseas until he left the military in 1974, then sat in a box until I recently inherited it. The original sheath has long since broken, and subsequently discarded, leaving the blade naked.

Now, with the help of my friend Warren at Edged Creations who handcrafted the new sheath with three layers of leather, hand stitching and copper rivets, it should be good for another 70 years.

Thanks, Warren!

DARPA XM-3 Marine sniper rifle up for auction

I got a chance to check this out in April when I was at CMP in Anniston for visit and tour (see articles here and here ICYMI) and just absolutely drooled over this bad boy.

Mmmm, smells like Kandahar

There were only 52 made and many have been scrapped. Thankfully, this one (#S6533990) was transferred to the CMP for sale on the civilian market and is complete with the NF optic, PVS22 night scope, case (which is very interestingly marked on the outside!) and accessories to include data book.

What is an XM-3?

From the DD:

These XM-3 sniper rifles used by the United States Marine Corps. In mid-2005, DARPA worked with Lt. Col. Norm Chandler’s Iron Brigade Armory (IBA) to field items to expeditionary units in Afghanistan. Since they already had a great working relationship, DARPA contracted IBA to build and test lightweight sniper rifles that incorporated the improvements the snipers desired in combat. The mission was to be lighter and smaller than the existing M40s, while having better accuracy, clip-on night vision that did not require re-zero, better optics, and better stock, and it had to be suppressed. The barrel had to be short enough to allow maneuverability yet long enough to deliver a 10” group at 1,000 yards. If the barrel was too heavy, maneuverability would decrease, yet if the barrel was too light it would only be able to shoot a few rounds before the groups started to shift due to barrel temperature. IBA tested a number of barrel lengths, ranging from 16 to 20 inches and in different contours. Each rifle with a different length was assigned an XM designator starting with XM1 through XM3. In each case, everything on the prototype rifles was kept the same except the barrel. During the final phases of testing it was found that the 18” barrels had no issues keeping up with their longer 20” brethren. The final barrel length was set at 18.5”, and the contour was a modified #7. The straight taper on the barrel was only 2” vs. 4” and the overall diameter at the muzzle was .85” vs. .980”. This helped reduce a lot of the rifle’s weight while not negatively affecting accuracy or effective range. A number of the groups at 1,000 yards were <1 MOA. The Marines of I-MEF were the first to field test the rifles at Camp Pendleton. Shortly after I-MEF took receipt of the XM-3s, the first units in II-MEF took receipt of theirs. By mid-2006 there were dozens of XM-3s in Iraq. There were 52 XM-3s made.

Of course, the bidding is past $20,000 but hey, it’s not your average Remmy M700

Why no polymers for Big Green?

number mags

With news the Marines have adopted a variant of the Magpul PMAG as standard, four U.S Senators with military service on their resume asked the Army where they stand on polymer mags.

The lawmakers penned a letter to Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley last week, calling the branch’s top officer out when it comes to the fact that polymer mags are not currently authorized.

“We request a response as to why the Army has not approved any polymer magazines for use in combat, or in training, and an update on if the Army is considering approving them now,” noted the lawmakers, pointing out that the Marine Corps recently approved use of a polymer magazine for their rifles after a five-year moratorium on such devices by both services.

More in my column at Guns.com

Bougainville remembered

 (Photo: USMC 63280. Colourised by Paul Reynolds. https://www.facebook.com/PhotoColourisation Historic Military Photo Colourisations)

(Photo: USMC 63280. Colourised by Paul Reynolds. Historic Military Photo Colourisations)

Official caption: BOUGAINVILLE OPERATION, November 1943. Cpl William Coffron, USMC, fires at a sniper on Puruata Island, during landing operations in Empress Augusta Bay, Bougainville, November 1943. He was covering Marine gun positions firing from Puruata on Torokina Island nearby.

It should be noted that Marines only recently switched from Springfield 1903s augmented by Johnson M1942 rifles and Reising SMGs to the M1 shown above at the time of the operation.

In honor of the battle which took place 73 years ago this month, SECNAV has come through with a decent ship name.

Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus announced 9 November that the name of the next America-class amphibious assault ship will be USS Bougainville (LHA 8).

The naming ceremony took place at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina last week.

LHA-8 will be the second ship to be named after Bougainville, an island in the northern Solomons, which was the location of a World War II campaign in 1943-1944 during which allies secured a strategic airfield from Japan. Success at Bougainville isolated all Japanese forces left in the Solomons.

The first Bougainville was an escort carrier that was launched in 1944, a year after the Bougainville campaign began. She was decommissioned for the first time in 1946. She was then brought back into service for five years before earning two battle stars for its service in World War II and being struck from the naval register in 1960.

Bluejackets at play in the last part of the 19th Century

Here is a great series of postal cards from the Detroit Publishing Co in the 1870s-1890s showing various scenes around the fleet. Several of these were taken on the grand old ship of the line USS Vermont which spent her entire life as a receiving ship. Others are on steel ships such as the protected cruiser USS Atlanta, and armored cruisers USS New York (ACR-2) and USS Brooklyn (ACR-3).

USS Brooklyn, "Apprentice boys at school." Note the casemate gun

USS Brooklyn, “Apprentice boys at school.” Note the casemate gun

USS Atlanta, "Sword exercise" It should be noted the Navy still had cutlasses on some ships through WWII

USS Atlanta, “Sword exercise” 1880s.  It should be noted the Navy still had cutlasses on some ships through WWII. Note the Marine officer in kepi and the bluejackets in flatcaps.

USS Vermont ,1890, "Recruits waiting to be transferred." note the hammock bedrolls on the bulkhead

USS Vermont, 1890, “Recruits waiting to be transferred.” note the hammock bedrolls on the bulkhead and dixie cups.

USS New York, "Scribbing down"

USS New York, “Scrubbing down”

USS Brooklyn, "Preparing Christmas dinner"

USS Brooklyn, “Preparing Christmas dinner”

USS Brooklyn, "A quiet little game" showing bluejackets at play as a Marine looks on. Dig the landing gun to the left of the image.

USS Brooklyn, “A quiet little game” showing bluejackets at play as a Marine looks on. Dig the landing gun to the left of the image under canvas.

Most of these are in the LOC under in their original B&W higher resolution condition (e.g. New York) should you be interested.

John Gresham has passed

john Gresham

In the small world of top-notch military commentary, there were a handful of legitimate experts. That pool has grown smaller with the untimely passing of John D. Gresham.

If you ever thumbed through Tom Clancy’s his best-selling series of non-fiction “guided tour” books about military units published in the 1990s:  Submarine, Armored Cav, Fighter Wing, Marine, Airborne, Carrier, and Special Forces, it was Clancy’s name that sold the book– but the insides were all made possible by the hard work of Gresham.

In all, he had some 15 books of his own in circulation as well as the annual The Year in Special Operations and a lot of the best open-source defense analysis in circulation. I corresponded with Mr. Gresham on a number of occasions.

He will be missed.

« Older Entries