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Corps wants dual optics for its machine guns

Feb. 2, 2013 - 11:03AM   |   Last Updated: Feb. 2, 2013 - 11:03AM  |  
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This M240G medium machine gun is fitted with a SU-260/P Machine Gun Day Optic and Ruggedized Miniature Reflex Sight. The Corps hopes to develop a capability allowing Marines to affix a thermal sight forward of their day optic without moving it.
This M240G medium machine gun is fitted with a SU-260/P Machine Gun Day Optic and Ruggedized Miniature Reflex Sight. The Corps hopes to develop a capability allowing Marines to affix a thermal sight forward of their day optic without moving it. (Pfc. Mark Stroud / Marine Corps)
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The Marine Corps infantry's biggest guns are set for a makeover that could outfit them with more effective optics hardware, saving shooters time.

The Corps' machine guns and automatic grenade launchers can be fitted with thermal sights and standard daytime optics, but they cannot be mounted at the same time. Switching them out is a time-consuming process, according to officials at Marine Corps Systems Command aboard Marine Corps base Quantico, Va.

"Every time the [Thermal Weapons Sight] or the magnified day optic is mounted, the operator must zero the sight/optic," according to written responses to questions by Capt. Nicole Fiedler, a MARCORSYSCOM spokeswoman.

In an attempt to address the issue, Marine officials recently awarded a $1.7 million contract to DRS Technologies Inc. of Arlington, Va., to research and develop new hardware — and software — that will provide Marines with an in-line capability to affix a thermal sight forward of their day optic without moving it, according to the contract announcement, posted Dec. 17 to FedBizOpps.gov.

The new hardware would be designed to work on 7.62mm M240B medium machine guns, .50-caliber M2 heavy machine guns and MK19 grenade machine guns, providing Marines with the ability to strike targets in daylight or under the cover of night, smoke, fog or heavy rain. It would allow them to use their SU-258/PVQ Squad Day Optic, SU-260/P Machine Gun Day Optic or M521 Heavy Machine Gun Day Optic with the thermal AN/PAS-13D V2 or V3 variant sights.

That will give Marines on medium and heavy weapons a capability similar to what riflemen have on their M16A4 rifles and M4 carbines. Those Marines are able to combine their Squad Day Optic with the AN/PAS-13D V1 optic, a smaller thermal scope for use on light rifles.

This will be the second significant upgrade for medium and heavy machine guns since 2011, when commanders in Afghanistan filed an urgent needs statement for an enhanced optic to help Marines engage targets at long range. The M2 and the MK19 have ranges of 3,500 meters and 1,700 meters, respectively, but the optics they were outfitted with could not facilitate accurate fire at those distances. The answer was the MK8 Close Quarters Battle Scout Sniper optic, which provided point accuracy at greater distances. More than 700 were procured through a $2.34 million contract.

Marine officials did not provide the number of in-line hardware upgrades they plan to order, but said the intention is to field the capability across the Marine air-ground task forces. There is no timeline for procurement since research and development on the upgrade is just beginning, but thousands will likely be purchased if procurement officials green-light the project.

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