An active private military contractor with connections to the U.S. Marine Corps (his name has been withheld to protect his identity) has revealed to NEWSREP that the Marines are rolling out a new round of updates for their infantry. The Corps’ self-identity as amphibious shock troops, long institutional memory of hard fights with capable peers, and two decades of combat are driving a modernization effort of infantry weapons and tactics. The grunts, normally accustomed to making do with what they can scrounge, are going to find themselves experiencing an unfamiliar feeling as they pull brand new rifles and other mischievous toys out of their factory wrapping. Here’s a glimpse of what’s coming down the pipe and when we can expect it.

Protection

The Marines are looking to upgrade their infantry with electronic ear protection, such as Peltors. Although the specific vendor is still being worked out, small unit leaders can expect the ear protection to amplify ambient noise, cancel out gunshots and explosions, and link with current radio systems. This will greatly increase unit leaders’ ability to communicate with their Marines amidst the cacophony of modern combat. The update from the ill-chosen and ineffective “foamies” to 21st century hearing protection, however, is going to be a little slower to arrive. That isn’t necessarily bad news, though.

Unlike the Army, which implements changes en masse, the Marines’ upgrades are being gradually introduced and altered according to feedback from unit leaders so that shortcomings can be addressed at an earlier stage to mitigate costly issues. The acquisition is being adapted to fit different needs. For instance, although the infantry appreciated the capabilities of over-the-ear protection, they were less effective for artillery, who just went back to their foamies.

In what is likely to be a very popular measure, the new armor plates in plate carriers, affectionately called “Sappies,” will be 40 percent lighter without any loss in protective capability.

Weapons

The Marines are breaking a longstanding tradition of following the Army’s armament selection. Their efforts with this push to modernize are focused on quickly and efficiently upgrading the infantry.

Many Marines are already familiar with the newest upgrade: The M2A1 .50 caliber machine gun is already being worked into active and reserve line units. This upgrade boasts a quick-change barrel and a new compensator threaded onto the muzzle. The system will have its headspacing and timing adjusted by the armorer and will not need to be tuned in the field, even if the barrel is removed or changed. That’s not all: Privates can expect to hump a lighter tripod, too.

The M240, the Marine Corp’s cocktail of firepower and flexibility (and the author’s favorite) is set to receive a new set of bipods that will be popular with any of the old hands who remember the M249. For the younger generation who never deployed as a SAW gunner, these new bipods are lighter and easier to deploy. Additionally, they will not have the awkward release button when collapsed.

The Corps has finally decided to do away with the unpopular Beretta M9. The highly competitive bidding for the Modular Handgun System (MHS) was a close race between Glock and SIG. Ultimately, the contract was awarded to SIG, which will arm the Marines with a military-specific variant of their P320. The caliber will remain 9mm, but the magazine capacity beats the Beretta’s 15+1 with 17+1. To facilitate all mission sets, the pistol is compact, lightweight, and Cerakoted a beautiful coyote brown.

The Corps has talked about reworking the rifle squad already. The upgrade has led to the phasing out of the M249 with the M27. The implementation will continue until all rifle squads are “M27 pure” by the end of this year with the exception of an M38 Designated Marksman Rifle (DMR) issued as a squad asset. With this upgrade in the firepower of the individual squad member, expect organic firepower to increase by an order of magnitude. While the M27s are currently glassed with Squad Day Optics (SDOs), expect the full integration to finish with the Rifle Combat Optic (RCO) as the legacy M4s and M16s are upgraded. As of now, the M27 is fitted with standard 30-round magazines. Trials are being conducted with 50-round Surefire magazines as the 100-round drums experienced too many failures to be considered viable at this time.

As the M4/M16 platforms are replaced by the M27, the underbelly M203 grenade launcher with its iconic “leaf sight” is on its way out for rifle squads. This capability will be replaced with a standalone M320 grenade launcher beginning near the end of 2019. Expect increased flexibility, speed, and accuracy to come with the adjustment. It may sound like a hassle to have one more thing to carry—a common complaint in the infantry—but when it comes time for the grenadier to employ the lightweight weapon, the Corps is anticipating faster rounds on target. Having worked with them in a different setting, I am excited to see their implementation here.

There is no change to the popular six-shot M32 grenade launcher that has already been fielded.

The persistent rumor that the rifle squads are to be equipped with suppressors is, in fact, true. The overwhelming VA complaint in the past two decades is for hearing loss, and the Corp’s leadership is taking it very seriously. Expect, as well, the increased tactical capabilities that are presented with suppressed rifles. Although anyone who has been near a suppressed 5.56mm caliber rifle knows that it still calls for hearing protection, the suppressor greatly reduces an enemy’s ability to identify the specific location of a shooter, especially at any significant range.

Marines can expect to see the changes in the ground combat elements by 2021 and enjoy 100 percent integration by 2022.

One big question we’ve had is about the Corps’ friends. The Army has expressed interest in the Next-Generation Squad Weapon, featuring a suppressor and chambered in 6.8mm Remington SPC. “We won’t wait forever,” Marine Corps leadership commented on the question of service interoperability. The Marines, well known as a force in readiness, are not going to wait on lessons learned, burdened by legacy gear, for the Army to lead the way.

Editor’s note: The content of this article has been provided by Jake, an active private military contractor (PMC) whose last name has been withheld for his anonymity.