Are The Marines Done with Suppressing Fire?

“Marine infantry squads will replace their [belt-fed] M249 light machine gun with a highly accurate, auto rifle geared for fast-moving assaults,” military.com reports. “In late May, Gen. James Amos, commandant of the Marine Corps, approved a plan to field the [magazine-fed H&K] M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle to all Marine infantry battalions.” Which raises the question: are the Marines moving beyond the concept of suppressing fire (i.e. laying down a large amount of lead to pin down the enemy for mortar fire or, come to think of it, the XM-25 computer controlled grenade thingie)? Sounds like a strategic sea change to me . . .

Program officials acknowledge that a [M27] 30-round magazine cannot produce the high volume of fire the M249 is capable of when loaded with a 200-round belt.

And because gunners cannot change out over-heating barrels on the M27, they will likely keep sustained rates of fire at nearly 40 rounds per minute for 600 rounds on days with mild temperatures. They will have to reduce that to 28 rounds when the temps climb past 100 degrees.

But accuracy seems to be the key to the M27’s effectiveness, Clark said. The auto rifle is already showing signs that it could to be twice as accurate as the Marine M16A4.

Gunners shooting the M27 have been getting first-round hits on targets beyond 300 meters much more consistently than they have in the past with the M249, Clark said.

“In the training, the Marines were employing it in the semi-auto mode until they closed within 100 meters or so of the enemy and then switch to full auto to provide very accurate high rates of fire,” he added. “We don’t lose the ability to gain fire superiority.”

“Fire superiority”? If we’re going down this road, away from a hail of lead towards long-distance love, why not deploy something in a larger caliber?

comments

  1. avatar DevsAdvocate says:

    I find it amusing that the Russians figured out this concept years ago: It’s called the RPK, and it’s basically a beefed up AK with a longer, thicker barrel, new sights, and a big fuggin magazine.

  2. avatar Brad Kozak says:

    I’ve never understood the concept of suppressive fire (a.k.a. “Spray n’ Pray”) when RPGs seem like a more effective way to make the same point.

    1. avatar TTACer says:

      Or an XM-25?

    2. avatar Nicholas Dixon says:

      Like the Mk 19? It’s probably not appropriate for all circumstances, although if you have no problem peppering a target with 7.62 all day, I don’t see the problem with 40mm grenades.

  3. avatar Chris Dumm says:

    It was my (perhaps mistaken) understanding that the USMC was going to feed these new automatic rifles from 60-round ‘quadruple stack’ magazines or 90-round snail drums, which would allow much faster reloads than belt-fed SAWs.

    There’s also another ‘hidden agenda’ theory that the USMC wants to get itself a whole new rifle, and that this ‘infantry assault rifle’ concept is the camel’s nose under the tent wall. If the rifle works out, they’ll start issuing more and more of them per squad until they don’t need the M16 any longer.

    On the subject of suppressive fire, I think our resident infantry officer Joe Grine ought to weigh in here…

    1. avatar Joe Grine says:

      Hey Chris… so if you were looking for a more thoughtful response than what I posted below, here it is: Infantry tactics by necessity are in a constant state of evolution, in response to such things as the technological improvements on the battlefield, the tactics and skill of the particular enemy in question, and the nature of the topography, terrain, and environmental factors associated with the particular region at issue. In addition, the firepower mix to want at your disposal will also be highly dependant on whether you are conducting defensive or offensive operations. In short, every situtaion is different, and there is no “perfect” weapon solution that works in all situations. Rather, the weapons systems you employ always involve a series of tradeoffs. Nonetheless, when the “powers that be” and their associated wonks develop doctrine at Fort Benning, etc., they are trying to develop a general weapon mix and tactics (“school-house solutions”) that will both come in on budget and also have some universal applicability which can form the building blocks for more theatre-specific tweaks. It sounds like the Marine Corps may be moving towards a concept of lighter, more mobile infantry manuever squads. It is really hard for someone on the outside (i.e. most of “us” prior service internet commandos) to intelligently comment on whether that is a good idea unless we know a lot more about the overall big picture: such things as the communications capabilities of the units, the availability and types of transportation assets, the logical support and types and amounts of supporting fires available to these units, etc. In other words, the choice to ditch SAWs in favor of an updated lighter version of the WWII- era BAR (or its 1950-60s updates such as the FN FALO/ RPK) is really only a small piece of a very big puzzle that the folks developing doctrine are trying to figure out. Personally, I’ve always thought that units should have a variety of weapon systems available to them so that they can taylor the desired weapon mix for the task at hand, but I also understand from a logistical / budgetary standpoint that my idea may not be very practical for anything other than SOF.

  4. avatar Joe Grine says:

    I think “fast moving infantry assaults” are highly overrated. I much prefer using CBU-87 Combined Effects Munitions, CBU-100 (aka Mk-20 Rockeye II), AGM-65 Maverick, and the good ole’ GBU 12/15/24, etc.

  5. avatar Res Publica Americana says:

    I’m still trying to get past the fact that this is a German-made weapon. And that the Beretta M9 is Italian, among others. Why aren’t American entrepreneurs and companies super-screwing all these Europeans in weapons manufacture and design? */Patriot rant*

    Either way, I’ve met a few people who are skeptical about abandoning a proven keystone principle of military engagements, but I guess we’ll just have to wait and see the results.

  6. avatar CUJO THE DOG OF WAR says:

    I don’t know-I still have much love for the M60 and M14…

  7. avatar Sid says:

    Because the SAW (no matter how short and lightweight it becomes) is a belt-fed weapon that does not maneuver well.

    Helmet, plate carrier with plates, water, ammo, first aid pouch, weapon, grenades… it is too much weight. Despite what players of Modern Warfare and Call of Duty would believe, they are not suddenly going to run 400 meters on pure adrenaline.

    The SAW and ammo is too heavy and prone to battlefield debris. Try reloading one without gloves when you just let loose with 200 rounds. Try keeping all of the ammo aligned in the belts and readily available when you are sloshing around the battlefield. Try getting in and out of an up-armored HMMWV or MRAP with one.

    Fire superiority is established in the first few magazines with aimed, rapid fire and bringing the crew served weapons on line (7.62 in some form or bigger). And once fire superiority is acheived, you have to maneuver on the targets. The AR is not going to fire his entire basic load. If so, then ordnance should have been called in.

    It is worth seeing if the new rifle works.

    1. avatar CUJO THE DOG OF WAR says:

      Good point. I don’t see how anyone can go ninja with all the crap a troop has to wear now. I even saw an ad recently for the Brits-kevlar underwear. Talk about chafing!

  8. avatar tdiinva says:

    In most enviroments the purpose of small arms fire is to drive enemy infantry to ground so you can call in indirect fires on his positions. Arillery and close air support (just another form of artillery) have been the real battlefield killers since World War I. You do this by employing highly accurate aimed rifile fire and using machine guns to restrict mobility. The only time that full auto fire is superior is when you get within 100 meters of your objective. We are still mentally chained to the Vietnam combat environment where sprayed small caliber fire was about effective as you could be when you could see your target in the dense jungle.

  9. avatar Lance says:

    I always thought that this was just the Marines’ way of getting a new full auto M4 without trying to fight through the crap that has stopped every other M4/M16 replacement project. I’m still not convinced that this isn’t just that.

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