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 behemothknown as an assault breacher vehicledesigned
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
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 Armys 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
Sightmade 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 systemssuch
as the M24 sniper riflecan 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 Commands
75th Ranger Regiment.
Marines headed to dusty Iraq also need better cleaning products
for their weapons. Some units are buying the M4/M-16 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 firms
law-enforcement and military sales manager.
The kit comes with a flexible cleaning rod, making it easier to
brush out a rifles entire barrel, from breech to muzzle. Mud
or snow can be dislodged from the muzzle. A bullet stuck in the
neck can be knocked out. Specific tools are included to clean locking
lugs, bolt face, carrier key, bolt and slide, as well as scopes.
The kit can be used to clean all 5.56 mm weapons systems, including
the Armys experimental XM-8 rifle, Williams said. It includes
patches that can be used up to six times and a mohair brush for
cleaning optics lenses.
Meanwhile, mundane combat gear such as boots, socks and tents also
are getting more attention as more Marines deploy.
Starting in October, Marines were required to wear new combat boots.
These brown, suede boots replace two older versions, the black and
the jungle green boots. The new ones are issued in boot camp and
sold in post exchanges. They are lighter and more flexible, more
like athletic shoes, explained Onder Ors, general manager at Bates
Uniform Footwear. Only two manufacturers are authorized to make
the bootsBates, which is headquartered in Rockford, Mich.,
and Belleville Shoe Manufacturing, of Belleville, Ill. The Marine
Corps is working to expand licensing to allow more manufacturers
to produce the new footwear. Meanwhile, Marines are warned not to
buy unauthorized look-alikes. Approved boots will have a Marine
emblem on the outside of the heel and an approval certification
number on the inside tongue of each piece of footwear.
The boots come in two varieties, one for infantry combat in temperate
climates and another for jungles and deserts. They require minimal
break-in, and are breathable and quick drying, Ors said. They feature
partial speed lacing and removable cushion inserts. Unlike older
boots, they require no shoe polish.
The boots soles have cleated rubber bottoms for improved
traction. When the soles wear out, they can be replaced, Ors said.
That, however, could cost as much as $50. By that time, the entire
boot would be showing some age. You might as well invest in
a new boot, he said.
Almost as important for keeping feet comfortable are the socks
that a Marine wears inside the boots, said Sam Mathews, a representative
of SealSkinz Waterproof Socks and Gloves, of Duarte, Calif. SealSkinz
socks use a solid membrane, without pores, Mathews said.
Liquid water cannot pass through, keeping the foot dry, but
water vapor can, permitting the foot to breathe. The foot stays
dry until there is a break in the membrane. Socks last up
to two years, he added.
The socks seem to be popular with military units. The 82nd
Airborne Division bought 7,000 pairs in 2003, he said. The
25th Infantry Division, U.S. Special Forces and Colombian military
services also have bought them.
The socks can help prevent a lot of foot injuries, including
blisters and jungle rot, Matthews said. You can run
into lots of problems if you dont take care of your feet.
Tired of spending nights in sleeping bags spread out over hard
ground, swatting at insects, many Leathernecks are considering buying
a combination cot and one-man tent made by Kamp-Rite, of Lovelock,
The Tent Cot, as it is known, is a folding bed with its own tent
and mosquito netting, explained Rob Bentley, director of military
sales. It sits 11 inches off the ground, keeping campers dry and
away from rodents and other pests.
The cot has doors and windows on all four sides with tie-up straps.
It can be equipped with a fan. By tilting one end up, it can be
converted into a lounge chair during the day. It folds to a six-inch
thickness for storage.
The Tent Cot has been available for three to four years on the
commercial market, and is just now being offered to military organizations.
So far, the biggest military customers have been Air Force units,
followed by those of the Army, Bentley said.
Many Marines also are purchasing new folding knives. Among the
innovative blades being selected is the Trident Folder, made by
SOG Knives, of Lynnwood, Wash. It was developed in cooperation with
the Navy SEALs, according to Scott Sherwood, vice president for
sales and marketing.
What makes the Trident different, Sherwood said, is its patented
groove that allows the operator to cut parachute cords, fishing
lines and thin rope without opening the knife. That can save
valuable time when youre in a hurry and possibly under fire,
he said. The Trident also features a one-handed opening action that
works both for the right and the left hand, he said.
In addition, it has a built-in safety spring that prevents
the knife from opening unexpectedly and injuring the operator, his
clothing or other equipment, Sherwood said. The Trident is
8.5 inches long with a 3.5-inch blade, and it weighs 4.5 ounces.
It comes with a pocket clip and a storage pouch.