Marines equipped with sophisticated optics, ops-core helmets, tablets and sensors move swiftly from room to room, clearing buildings in a futuristic urban environment.
As autonomous and remote-controlled ground vehicles provide security and overwatch, it’s a redolent image of elite special operators amid a high-speed raid.
But in reality, its part of an exercise aboard Camp Pendleton, California, and these Marines are grunts with Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment.
The weeklong Urban ANTX-18 exercise at Camp Pendleton, California, will help Marine leaders narrow down what to field as the Corps continues its quest to retool its most basic block of combat power for a future fight.
Those choices will be “fully informed by the perspective of the Marine that will carry it in the fight,” Brig. Gen. Christian F. Wortman, the commanding general for the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory, said at the exercise on March 23. “The ultimate test is how it performs on the battlefield.”
Any new gear added to the grunts means more weight, but it also could also extend them beyond their original purpose: to close in on and destroy the enemy. It may also counter the commandant’s ultimate goal of lightening the infantry and the entire ground combat element.
“We are adding lots of gear, more weight, more equipment, more technology,” said Lt. Gen. Robert S. Walsh, the commanding general, Marine Corps Combat Development Command, and deputy commandant, Combat Development and Integration. “We want this to get them to improve how they operate, move faster, keep tempo up.”
Marines themselves appeared to shift toward lightweight, practical pieces of equipment that added increased lethality, while shunning bulkier pieces that the grunts may still view as a foreign to traditional infantry employment.
Two hits were the new M-72 light assault weapon, or LAW anti-tank rocket, and L3 Technologies’ binocular night vision device currently fielded by Marine special operators.
The new LAW comes with a few extra pounds of increased weight compared to its older predecessor, but has the added benefit of no backblast and comes with more lethal dual fuze rounds.