The British Royal Marines Commandos are bracing for significant changes that will take them back to their Special Operations roots.
The British Ministry of Defence (MoD) is considering the restructuring of the Royal Marines under the Future Commando Force concept. Improvements include upgrades to their individual weapons, personal loadout, and uniforms. More importantly, however, the MoD is considering deploying the Commandos in smaller elements that would be capable of conducting SOF missions.
The change began in 2017. Then, the MoD had decided to restructure 42 Commando (a Commando is a battalion-sized formation) from a normal Commando to a Maritime Operations Commando (MOC), which is geared toward force protection, maritime interdiction, and maritime counterterrorism. After this restructuring, 3 Commando Brigade was left with two “regular” Commandos (40 Commando and 45 Commando).
When it comes to their individual rifles, the Royal Marines will be receiving the Canadian-built C8 Carbine — the British designation is L119A1 / L119A2 Special Forces Individual Weapon (SFIW) — and thus replacing the awkward SA-80.
And there have been some additional changes: The 1 Assault Group Royal Marines (1 AGRM), which provides landing craft support to the Commandos, was renamed to 47 Commando and brought under the command of the 3 Commando Brigade.
“It is with enormous pride that I have been able to announce the renaming of 1 Assault Group Royal Marines to 47 Commando (Raiding Group) Royal Marines,” said Major General Matt Holmes, the Commandant General of the Royal Marines. “This change better captures the future role of this specialist 3 Commando Brigade Royal Marines unit, whilst reflecting the esteem in which we hold the forebears given their audacious Commando operations of the past.”
This change aims to make the Commandos more flexible. Now, it will be easier to provide short-notice and scalable landing craft support to the rest of the Brigade.
“The Commando ethos is incredibly strong and remains the golden thread that runs through the Royal Marines as we accelerate into the future as the Royal Navy’s Commando force,” added Major Gen. Holmes.
The restructuring of the Royal Marines seems to aim at creating a scalable Special Operations force capable of responding to a wide range of threats. In recent years, the Commandos had been geared toward conventional operations (whether amphibious or ground). In the Falklands War, for example, they spearheaded the British recapturing of the Islands from the Argentines. More recently in Afghanistan, they deployed in a light infantry role, conducting direct action missions, mainly in Kandahar Province.
But, of course, better uniforms, weapons, and body armor don’t overnight turn a unit into SOF. Everything begins and ends with the men. Only if they are selected and assessed to meet the demands of the Special Operations world can the unit be considered SOF. Since the Second World War, when they received the title “Commando,” the Royal Marines have been selecting and training their personnel to top standard. In essence, thus, they have been a SOF unit at heart, but one mostly tasked with conventional missions.