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Supporting the Future Fight: MCSC Modernizing Infantry Capabilities

Monday, May 17th, 2021


The Marine Corps has been investing time, money and resources into modernizing the force to meet objectives outlined in the Commandant’s Planning Guidance, Force Design 2030 and the National Defense Strategy.

Brig. Gen. A.J. Pasagian, commander of Marine Corps Systems Command, has stated that no investment is more important than those in support of the infantry Marine.

“The Marine Corps in 2030 does not exist without the individual Marine, what they’re wearing and what they’re carrying,” said Pasagian. “Enhancing our infantry Marines by providing them with the best capabilities available remains an integral, ongoing priority for the Marine Corps.”

MCSC has placed great emphasis on meeting the demands of the future force to ensure Marines are never in a fair fight, said Pasagian. To achieve this objective, the command has concentrated on increasing infantry communication, lethality and survivability.

Increased close combat lethality

Over the last few years, MCSC developed and fielded several new, modernized capabilities to Marines, including the M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle, Squad Common Optic, Squad Binocular Night Vision Goggles and M320A1 grenade launcher.

The M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle, originally fielded in 2011, is lighter and reaches farther distances than its predecessor, the M249 squad automatic weapon, said CWO4 David Tomlinson, MCSC’s infantry weapons officer.

“The M27 is fully automatic and increases their accuracy compared with previous weapons systems,” said Tomlinson. “The increased accuracy leads to increased lethality.”

Over time, the popularity of the weapon blossomed among Marines. They raved about its ease of use and overall effectiveness. This led to the Corps expanding its fielding to all rifle platoons as their primary individual weapon.

Earlier this year, Marines began receiving the Squad Common Optic, an innovative new rifle sight that better enables shooters to identify and engage the enemy from farther distances in variable light conditions. It can be attached to the M4 and M4A1 Carbine as well as the M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle.

“The Squad Common Optic is a variable-power optic that allows Marines to engage to threats at the maximum effective range of their weapons system, improving target acquisition and probability-of-hit with infantry assault rifles,” said Tomlinson.

In 2020, MCSC also fielded the Squad Binocular Night Vision Goggle—a lightweight, helmet-mounted night vision system that provides increased depth perception, improved clarity and a thermal-imaging capability to detect targets in extreme darkness or through battlefield obscurants.

The SBNVG enables Marines to operate vehicles at night, move through dark buildings or tunnels, and engage targets after sunset. By using this system, Marines can be as lethal at night as they are in the daytime, said Tomlinson.

The Marine Corps also began fielding a new grenade launcher last year. The M320A1 is a single-fire system that Marines can either mount onto another rifle or use as a stand-alone weapon.

“The M320A1 provides an improved capability to engage the enemy day and night, while retaining the capability of short range, reflexive fire of the primary weapon,” said Capt. Nick Berger, MCSC’s project officer for the M320A1. “In addition, the M320A1 increases the small unit flexibility in employing lethal, nonlethal and special-purpose munitions by allowing them to tailor the weapon configuration to the mission.”

Lightening the load

Infantry units need more than just weapons to get the job done. The Marine Corps leans heavily upon MCSC’s Program Manager for Infantry Combat Equipment to research, develop and field lightweight protective gear designed to increase survivability.

In 2020, MCSC began updating its enhanced combat helmet to improve fit and comfort. The improved, high-cut helmet includes a retention system that tightens around the circumference of the head and adjusts easier. Female Marines, in particular, have noted how the high-cut ECH fits their hair buns better than the legacy ECH.

Another notable fielding in 2020 was the Plate Carrier Generation III, a next-generation protective vest that provides improved fit, form and function for Marines. The PC Gen. III guards against bullets and fragmentation when coupled with protective plates.

The PC Gen. III uses less material than the Plate Carrier that fielded in 2011. Lt. Col. Andrew Konicki, the program manager for Infantry Combat Equipment, explained that the improved designed of the PC Gen. III reduces the overall weight and bulkiness of the vest, increasing maneuverability.

“Lightening the load is important because it allows Marines to be more agile when moving from covered position to covered position,” said Konicki. “Improved mobility increases survivability while preserving endurance, which enhances a Marine’s lethality.”

In 2021, MCSC began fielding the Marine Corps Intense Cold Weather Boot—a full-grain, leather boot designed for use in temperatures as cold as -20 degrees Fahrenheit. The ICWB is lighter and less bulky than the Extreme Cold Weather Boot, employed in -65 to -20 degrees Fahrenheit.

The ICWB allows Marines to complete various missions that might involve hiking or skiing in arduous, cold weather environments without having to change boots, said Konicki.

“This boot lightens the load for Marines because they’ll need only one boot for cold weather operations instead of having to carry two sets of boots and change based on the weather conditions,” said Konicki.

On the ammunition front, MCSC awarded a contract in 2020 to test and evaluate new, lightweight .50-caliber polymer ammo, with an intent to further lighten the warfighter’s load. The ammo, to be used in the M2 Machine Gun, is significantly lighter and easier to haul than the traditional brass casings.

Polymer is a class of plastic-like material that weighs less than brass and other metals commonly used in weapon systems. As the Marine Corps evaluates .50-caliber polymer ammo, other services are also evaluating other types of ammo.

The Army, for instance, is validating a 7.62mm polymer round, which could also potentially make its way to Marines in the future.

CWO3 Chad Cason, a project officer with MCSC’s Program Manager for Ammunition, said polymer ammo enables Marines to carry more with less fatigue, enhancing combat readiness. He also noted how the ammunition is just as effective as the brass ammo of the past.

“This is truly an innovative program, as [PM Ammunition] continues its modernization efforts in support of increasing lethality and capability to the Fleet Marine Force,” said Cason.

MCSC will host several limited user evaluations in 2021 and 2022, allowing Marines to assess the effectiveness and performance of the ammunition. Marine feedback during these assessments will inform a future fielding decision, said Cason.

Enhanced communication

Operating in a 21st century environment also requires innovative command and control equipment to increase communication on the battlefield.

In 2019, the Marine Corps fielded a lightweight, tablet system that improves situational awareness on the battlefield. The Marine Air-Ground Task Force Common Handheld enables Marines to use commercial smart devices to plot and share points, offering an overall view of the battlespace to commanders.

Later that year, MCSC upgraded the MCH to allow Marines to communicate with one another through several additional communication systems, including the Advanced Field Artillery Tactical Data System and the Army’s Joint Battle Command-Platform.

“Communication is critical to ensure Marines and commanders in the field have access to information and data at the right levels,” said John Maurer, deputy portfolio manager for MCSC’s Command Element Systems. “It enables, facilitates and accelerates decision-making and situational awareness.”

In 2020, the Marine Corps also fielded a next-generation High Frequency Radio II, which provides Marines with long-range, beyond line-of-site radio communications. The radio system comprises Wideband HF, increasing the data rate to more quickly communicate larger amounts of information.

Maurer said the HFR II is a modern, resilient and sustainable capability that is significantly smaller and lighter than the legacy HF radio. MCSC’s Ground Radios HFR II Team, led by Leigh King, accelerated the acquisition process and achieved fielding one year earlier than originally planned.

The MCH, HFR II and several other communication systems acquired by MCSC are designed to make communication more seamless and efficient for infantry Marines, said Maurer.

“We are positioned to meet the Commandant’s Planning Guidance by providing multiple new systems to infantry Marines to enable the kill chain,” said Maurer. “The capabilities provided will support the initial operational capability of Force Design 2030 by providing assured command and control in a degraded environment, information warfare superiority and protected mobility for enhanced maneuver.”

The importance of training

The Marine Corps cannot accomplish its modernization goals alone.

Chris Woodburn, of the Capabilities Development Directorate at the Combat Development and Integration, said they will continue to solicit support from industry and other services to field innovative capabilities and posture for the future fight.

“The Marine Corps is fielding several close combat lethality enhancements to address near-term requirements while working with the Army to pursue the next generation capabilities for the future,” said Woodburn. “These enhancements facilitate our close combat forces’ ability to leverage the best capability now, while posturing for the future through continued work with partner services.”

Tomlinson believes updating infantry units relevant gear is a critical step in gaining a competitive advantage over adversaries. However, he said the acquisition of effective equipment and the employment of active training can help the Marine Corps reach its modernization goals.

“Lethality isn’t just an item,” said Tomlinson. “We can give Marines a new system, but that doesn’t necessarily make them more lethal. Lethality also involves incorporating proper, effective training.”

Tomlinson said MCSC often employs New Equipment Training events to furnish Marines with the knowledge necessary to operate new capabilities. MCSC’s Training Systems program office also ensures Marines are equipped with the technology and systems needed to use newly-fielded capabilities in a simulated environment.

The Marine Corps’ Training and Education Command also plays an important role in increasing the lethality of Marines.

TECOM leads the Marine Corps’ individual entry-level training, professional military education and continuous professional development, through unit, collective and service-level training. The group’s intent is to enhance warfighting organizations that enable Marines to build and sustain the combat readiness required to fight and win today and in the future.

“The modernization of gear and equipment needs to be seamless to the training piece,” said CWO4 Anthony Viggiani, TECOM’s infantry weapons officer. “It’s not just the gear and equipment that makes an individual more lethal, it co-aligns the training as well.”

Viggiani said training offers the preparation needed to increase battlefield lethality. Training equips Marines with the confidence and capabilities needed to employ a piece of equipment to its maximum effectiveness, he said.

“You can’t just give an individual gear and equipment and think that’s going to solve all our problems,” said Viggiani. “Training is an important steppingstone to increasing lethality on the battlefield.”

Matt Gonzales, MCSC Office of Public Affairs and Communication, Marine Corps Systems Command

Is Glock Finally Going to Release Their Carbine?

Wednesday, May 12th, 2021

The Glock Carbine has been one of the worst kept secrets in small arms and everyone keeps wondering when they are going to finally release it to the public.

Our friends at Spartanat believe it’s going to happen and have released a video about it.

FN Expands Pistol Offerings with All-FDE FN Five-Seven and FN 503 Micro Compact

Friday, May 7th, 2021

(McLean, VA – May 7, 2021) Catering to the requests of shooting enthusiasts and FN brand fans alike, FN America, LLC is pleased to announce the release of new flat dark earth (FDE) offerings in both its FN Five-seveN® and FN 503® line-ups, available at authorized retailers soon.

“Today’s gun buyer is looking for variety and options, not just with accessories but with color variants that stand out in unique and noticeable ways,” said Chris Cole, Vice President of Sales and Marketing for FN America, LLC. “FN’s all-FDE models certainly stand out and we feel that these new releases in our signature color give  consumers greater options to further customize, and personalize, their gun and gear setups.”

FN Five-seveN FDE

The original FN Five-seveN®, often imitated but hardly duplicated, has two decades of trusted service with allied armies, global law enforcement and civilians.

Extending its groundbreaking design is a new, all flat dark earth frame and slide. With improved range and accuracy over common pistol cartridges, the NATO-standardized 5.7x28mm, developed by FN, is fired from the chrome-lined cold hammer-forged barrel.

Pinpoint accuracy and minimal felt recoil is standard issue. Equipped with an internal hammer, the smooth trigger with a predictable break further enhances accuracy.

This new all-FDE model, available with 10-rd or 20-rd magazines, replaces the existing two-toned FDE and Black. Existing California-compliant Five-Seven models remain unchanged.

FN 503 FDE

The latest update to FN’s micro compact 9mm pistol, now available in flat dark earth, is inspired by the company’s legendary reputation for battle-proven quality. Setting a new standard in concealed carry handguns, the 503 is more controllable and accurate thanks to a full-height grip stippling and a best-in-class trigger breaking cleanly at approximately 5.5-lbs. The FN 503 is a discreet and comfortable gun that conceals easily thanks to its slim profile. The snag-free all-metal 3 dot sights deliver an instant and crisp sight picture.

To learn more about these latest offerings or explore FN’s full product line, please visit www.fnamerica.com.

SSD Exclusive – A Deeper Dive Into The FN EVOLYS Machine Gun

Friday, May 7th, 2021

Yesterday, FN Herstal unveiled their new ultralight belt-fed machine gun, the EVOLYS. Here’s some additional information on the EVOLYS we thought you might be interested in.

Right up front it is important to note that the machine gun shown during FN Herstal’s unveiling is not exactly the same as the one that will be offered in the United States, which we’ll explain later on.

Having said that, it is being offered in two basic variants, the Ultra Lightweight Machine Gun in 5.56mm NATO and the Lightweight Machine Gun, a multi-caliber gun, currently in 7.62mm NATO, which can also be chambered for 6.5 CM as well as a conventional cased Next Generation 6.8 x 51mm round. Additionally, we are told the EVOLYS LMG can be adapted to other calibers.

Apparently, EVOLYS has been under development for several years. However, this current iteration is a refinement of a design submitted for the US Army’s Next Generation Squad Automatic Rifle (NGSAR) solicitation meaning that much of the engineering was already accomplished by that point for a similar machine gun. Consequently, the technology is more mature than it appears to those seeing it for the first time. What sets EVOLYS apart form that earlier effort is that there has been a significant amount of user feedback from SOF used in the current configuration. FN America assured us that EVOLYS was not created to satisfy any new government solicitations, but rather is the next step in FN’s line of machine guns, integrating multiple new features.

Conversely, FN has no intention of halting production of their existing designs (M249, M240, MK46/48). They will continue to support those designs throughout their lifespan while the company looks to address current and future needs. With one of every two machine guns on the planet coming from FN, they’ve got a lot of customers to continue to support.

The name hints at evolution and this new machine gun platform will be familiar to anyone who has had time behind FN’s M240 (MAG) or M249 (Minimi). While it breaks down in much the same way, with a receiver, recoil spring and bolt carrier group, you’ll note that EVOLYS features a monocoque construction receiver. Unlike the M240, it’s one continuous piece which helps control weapon weight. In fact, you’re looking at significant weight reduction with 5.5 kg ULMG & 6.2 kg LMG compared to a 7.5 kg M249 and 10.1 kg M240L.

Another interesting note is that there are no operator barrel changes with EVOLYS. They’re so confident in the metallurgy of the barrel that you won’t have to swap barrels during sustained fire. Barrel changes will require tools and about two to three minutes to accomplish.

Speaking of barrels, EVOLYS will be introduced with 14″ (para) and 16″ options, but other lengths may be added in the future.

It uses a tappet short stroke piston operating system with a gas regulator and, like other FN belt-feds, EVOLYS only fires from the open bolt. Controllability and reliability is enhanced by use of a hydraulic buffer.

FN Herstal has stated that EVOLYS was developed from the outset for use with a suppressor and we understand that the developmental team used at least the SureFire suppressors adopted by USSOCOM. Additionally, video shown by FN Herstal during the EVOLYS launch depict B&T suppressors which makes sense as they provide suppressors to FN.

Interestingly, FN also claims that their operating system prevents the gas associated with the use of a suppressor from being blown back into the face of the firer, even a left handed shooter.

Earlier we mentioned that the US and Rest of World version of EVOLYS would differ slightly. For instance, the version Herstal revealed is equipped with a SCAR stock while the US version has a backplate which also facilitates use of an M4-style collapsible stock. Further development of the stock is underway with concepts being evaluated to offer different comb heights without weight increases.

As one FN America executive related, “one hundred years in the waiting, we finally have a side loading, continuous rail machine gun.”

The real magic in the EVOLYS design is the patented lateral feed mechanism which still incorporates a feedtray cover and feedtray, but how they are accessed is completely different than other machine guns.

Instead, the separate feedtray cover and feedtray open to the left, swinging outward toward the business end of the gun. Of note, it can only be configured as left-hand feed.

This design facilitates one-handed loading and has similar round alignment pawls to the Mk46 and Mk48. You can seat the cartridge into the feed tray and the system will guide the cartridge into proper placement.

While belts can still be broken in the event of a runaway gun, FN informs us they have integrated a anti-runaway mechanism into the design. Additionally, the last link is automatically ejected at the end of firing so no need to clear the feedtray.

With the lateral feed mechanism, the top Picatinny rail is a single piece, running all the way from the front of the handguard to the rear of the receiver. This means optics and other enables can be mounted anywhere along the rail without having to worry about a front folding or side tilting feedtray cover. You can mount your optic where you need it and keep it there.

EVOLYS offers single (semi-auto) as well as sustained (full-auto) fire options, selectable at the ambidextrous thumb safety above the pistol grip.

Expect better accuracy than an M4 carbine. FN has regularly demonstrated 1.5 – 2.5 MOA accuracy, depending on the gun’s temperature.

Initially, EVOLYS will be built in Herstal and the company will evaluate US-based manufacturing.

FN Herstal plans to exhibit EVOLYS at DSEI in London in September, but it’s possible you may run into it at a range day before then as interest begins to pick up.

Mike Pannone Discusses the Benefits of a Pistol Caliber Short Rifle (PCSR)

Thursday, May 6th, 2021

Mike Pannone, Director of Training, B&T USA examines the features and advantages of a Pistol Caliber Short Rifle (PCSR), or submachine gun based system, such as B&T’s APC9 PRO, for law enforcement and military applications occurring within confined spaces, or within spaces where size savings are important.

About Mike Pannone/CTT Solutions

Mike is a former operational member of U.S. Marine Reconnaissance, Army Special Forces (Green Beret), 1st SFOD-D (Delta) and the Asymmetric Warfare Group. He is an active USPSA pistol shooter holding a Master class ranking in Limited, Limited-10 and Production divisions. Mike has participated in stabilization, combat and high-risk protection operations in support of U.S. policies throughout the world as both an active duty military member, and a civilian contractor. Mike also worked as the primary firearms instructor for the Federal Air Marshal program in Atlantic City, as well as the head in-service instructor for the Seattle field office. He has spent countless hours on the range and in the classroom with military units, LEO and operational personnel sharing his vast combat and practical experience to increase proficiency and organizational success.

FN EVOLYS: The New Ultralight Machine Gun By FN Herstal

Thursday, May 6th, 2021

(Herstal, Belgium) – May 06, 2021 – Belgium-based designer and manufacturer of small caliber weapons, associated weapon systems and ammunition FN Herstal has announced earlier today the entry of a brand-new machine gun with unique features, the FN EVOLYS. With this new addition to FN Herstal’s product portfolio, the Company definitely intends to write a new chapter in the history of machine guns.

Earlier today, FN Herstal has unveiled to the Defense and Security markets a completely new machine gun – the FN EVOLYS – during a global digital product launch event. It is with a great satisfaction and pride that the Company succeeded in combining its universally recognized expertise in the field of machine gun design, development and manufacture; its innovative spirit and current unmet market requirements to bring life to a new machine gun. The FN EVOLYS features an incredibly innovative and open architecture together with unique characteristics.

The FN EVOLYS is a radically different, ultralight weapon that combines the firing capabilities of a belt-fed machine gun with ergonomics and balance similar to an assault rifle. This is exactly what is needed and expected by users for current and future operations.

5.56x45mm NATO Variant

The FN EVOLYS has been developed in two calibers, 5.56x45mm NATO and 7.62x51mm NATO.

7.62x51mm NATO Variant

A true, ultralight machine gun…

The FN EVOLYS, with a weight between 5.5 and 6.2 kilos depending on the caliber, is much lighter than current reference machine guns. This reduced weight enables the user to move across difficult terrain quickly and to engage with a high volume of fire when needed with no difficulty.

Its reduced weight and excellent balance also mean that the weapon can be fired from any position. Transitioning from one firing position to another is made easy by the design of the sling attachment interface.

Featuring assault rifle characteristics

The FN EVOLYS ultralight machine gun fires like a machine gun, and handles like an assault rifle.

The ambidextrous fire selector has a semi-auto position to engage point targets as with a rifle while the full auto position allows suppressive fire as with a machine gun.

The buttstock is adjustable in length and height. Whatever his size, or the equipment he is wearing, the user can always find a comfortable shooting position.

Reliable, extremely comfortable and stable when firing

The latest-generation materials and technologies used on the FN EVOLYS, combined with FN Herstal’s long- standing expertise and innovative spirit, ensure that the reduction of weight has not compromised the vital factors of reliability, user safety and long life of parts.

The hydraulic buffer gives a steady rate of fire and reduces recoil.

The FN EVOLYS was designed from the start to fire intensively with a sound suppressor and therefore showed no reduction in performance when fitted with a suppressor, no excessive fouling, and no debris projected towards the user, even for left-handers.

Innovative and unique architecture

Another big innovation in the FN EVOLYS is the patented lateral feed mechanism, which has allowed the design to include several major improvements requested by users:

– The one-piece long top rail enables mounting a combination of various in-line optical sights such as day and night sights together, or magnifiers for instance, without removing the iron sights.

– Easy, instinctive and fast access to all controls by left or right-handed shooters for improved handling in the field

– All actions can be done with just one hand, including engaging the belt.

– Cartridges are automatically repositioned when the feed cover is closed if the belt is not correctly placed on the feed tray. This avoids a failure to feed the first round, which is a great reassurance for the user.

– The last link is automatically ejected, clearing the way for a faster and more reliable reload.

Missed FN Herstal’s product launch event today?

Click here to discover.

The new FN EVOLYS ultralight machine gun will be on display on FN Herstal booth, Belgian Pavilion, North HALL, at the DSEI international trade show, London, from September 14 to 17, 2021.

AeroVironment Awarded $26 Million Switchblade 600 Tactical Missile Systems Contract by U.S. Special Operations Command

Wednesday, April 28th, 2021

• Switchblade 600 features high-precision optics, more than 40 minutes of loitering endurance and an anti-armor warhead for engaging and prosecuting hardened static and moving light armored vehicles

• Integration of Switchblade 600 into maritime platforms enables precision engagements against naval and littoral threats and greater deployment flexibility

Switchblade 600 is an extended-range loitering missile system capable of multi-domain operations. (Photo: AeroVironment, Inc.)

SIMI VALLEY, Calif., April 27, 2021 AeroVironment, Inc. (NASDAQ: AVAV), a global leader in unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), today announced it was awarded a cost-plus-fixed-fee contract on March 31, 2021 by the United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) for $26,120,810 with $7,159,036 funded upon receipt. The contract includes delivery and integration of Switchblade® 600 tactical missile systems into specialized maritime platforms, scheduled to be completed by January 2023.

“Our team worked closely with our customers to develop Switchblade 600, a loitering missile system that addresses the increasingly complex needs and mission requirements of counterinsurgency operations and those against peer and near-peer adversaries,” said Brett Hush, AeroVironment vice president and product line general manager for tactical missile systems. “Integrating Switchblade 600 into combat platforms, such as the USSOCOM’s specialized maritime vessels, enhances force overmatch, minimizes warfighter exposure to enemy direct and indirect fires and accelerates the maturation of this innovative solution.”

The AeroVironment Switchblade 600 is an all-in-one, man portable solution equipped with a high-performance EO/IR gimbaled sensor suite, precision flight control and more than 40 minutes of flight time to deliver unprecedented tactical reconnaissance, surveillance and target acquisition (RSTA). Its anti-armor warhead enables engagement and prosecution of hardened static and moving light armored vehicles from multiple angles – without external ISR or fires assets – for precise, localized effects and minimal collateral damage.

SIG SAUER President & CEO Ron Cohen Highlights U.S. Army Next Generation Squad Weapons Program in Exclusive Video

Wednesday, April 28th, 2021