Headed for Iraq, Marines Check out New Combat Gear

By Kennedy, Harold | National Defense, January 2005 | Go to article overview

Headed for Iraq, Marines Check out New Combat Gear


Kennedy, Harold, National Defense


In preparation for extended deployments in Iraq, U.S. Marines are looking to stock up on new equipment to replace or supplement existing gear.

Weapons for urban combat are at the top of the list. One example is a 63-ton behemoth-known as an assault breacher vehicle--designed to plow through minefields. Its job is to clear a lane for other vehicles and troops. It has a range of tools designed to defeat mines and roadside bombs, explained Jeff Augustine, a team leader at the Marine Corps Systems Command, in Quantico, Va.

"It has a surface mine plow that can withstand the first blast and continue to march right on through the minefield," he said. Other tools include a full-width mine plow, a combat dozer blade, a rapid ordnance-removal system, demolition charges and a lane-marking system.

The breacher is built on the chassis of an M1A1 tank. It has a new turret designed to provide improved protection for the vehicle commander, Augustine said. The turret is armed with a .50-caliber machine gun for self-defense.

The vehicle can be operated by a two-man crew or by remote control.

The breacher currently is being tested at the Army's Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland, Augustine said. The Corps plans to deploy it to Iraq this summer. Over the next two years, the Marines intend to buy 33 of the vehicles.

The Marines also are purchasing large numbers of weapon sights for individual weapons. One example is the Parascope Urban Combat Sight-made by Vitronics Inc., a division of MTC Technologies Company, of Dayton, Ohio. It allows Marines to shoot around a corner or over a barrier, exposing only their hands and arms to enemy fire.

The sight allows targets to be viewed both from side and rear ports without mirror inversion or distortion, said Philip Karcher, a Vitronics representative. Using the side port, targets may be engaged from the safety of a protective barrier. Shooters also can aim conventionally, with both eyes, open through the rear port.

Another advantage is that "the sight is purely optical," Karcher explained. "There are no electronics to break down or batteries to die."

The sight mounts on the standard Picatinny 1913 Rail System used by the M16 and M4 rifles. "We fired 700 rounds with the sight at Aberdeen," Karcher said. "Accuracy was very good, and there was a huge reduction in the exposure profile."

The sight was released in the fall and was evaluated immediately by the Rapid Equipping Force, he said. A special operations unit also is trying it out in Iraq. The sight comes with an optional cover to protect it against harmful aspects of the environment, such as sand.

Any Marine armed with one of the Remington 700 weapon systems-such as the M24 sniper rifle-can mount as many as four visible and infrared illumination and aiming devices on it by equipping it with a Modular Accessory Rail System.

MARS, as the system is known, "brings these rifles into the 21st century," said Michael D. Haughen, military product specialist for the Remington Arms Company, of Olympia, Wash.

Unlike the Picatinny system, MARS has three pieces, including a top rail for mounting day and night-vision sights, and two side rails that can be moved or removed to accommodate devices for specific missions, Haughen explained.

Haughen, who retired from the Army after 17 years in Special Forces, designed MARS himself. "It took about two years to develop the system," he said. It was released in mid 2004, and has been adopted already by the U.S. Special Operations Command's 75th Ranger Regiment.

Marines headed to dusty Iraq also need better cleaning products for their weapons. Some units are buying the M4/M16 Soft Pak Kit, made by Otis Technology Inc., of Lyons Falls, N.Y. The kit is a half-pound cleaning system that replaces more than three pounds of conventional gear, explained Jerry Williams, the firm's law-enforcement and military sales manager. …

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