The Marine Corps is planning to field new high-tech combat gear — a rifle-mounted laser range finder — that will give squad leaders some extraordinary new capabilities and revolutionize the way the Corps' small units operate in battle.
The laser range finders could for the first time allow infantry squad leaders to call in air strikes and artillery fire, a change that would vastly increase the lethality of small infantry units and push previously unheard of responsibility down to junior Marines at the squad level.
Specifically, the sophisticated laser range finder, which could cost nearly $10,000 each, would give squad leaders instant access to detailed information about distances and locations for targets that require heavy fires.
"A squad leader with accurate range data can quickly assign the appropriate force to eliminate threats," said Chief Warrant Officer Five Mark R. Salmons, a Marine gunner, or infantry weapons officer.
"This is a huge time savings that results in a higher probability of first round effects on target," Salmons told Military Times.
The increased capability and lethality these devices provide, Salmons said, "will allow for additional responsibilities such as requesting indirect fires and air-delivered ordnance."
Marine Corps Systems Command has not yet selected a specific model for the laser range finder. But officials aim to begin fielding the devices next year. With a roughly $16 million budget, Marine Corps Systems Command, known as MARCORSYSCOM, currently is doing market research, and plans to procure about 1,800 units.
The first shipment will be in the hands of Marine squad leaders by the summer of 2018, with a full roll out by 2021, according to a Marine spokesman.