With the end of 2020 fast approaching, it’s officially that wonderful time of the year when we can stop, take stock of our lives, and look ahead to what 2021 holds for us — and in the case of U.S. military personnel in close combat roles, it’s a slew of new weapons and gear for a boost in delicious, delicious lethality.
Here’s a look ahead at some of the fresh gear soldiers and Marines can expect to find in their arsenals in the coming years.
New pistols for Marines
The Marine Corps finally started fielding the M18 service pistol to replace its existing arsenal of sidearms back in September, its first new pistol in nearly 35 years. A compact variant of the striker-fired M17 that the Army adopted under the Modular Handgun System program in 2017, the M18 will replace all other pistols in the Marine Corps inventory, including the M9, M9A1, M45A1, and M007, according to the service.
New futuristic combat goggles for soldiers
The Army plans on fielding its Integrated Visual Augmentation System (IVAS) to soldiers starting in fiscal year 2021 despite potential delays posed by the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). Based on Microsoft’s HoloLens technology, the futuristic goggles will provide soldiers with enhanced capabilities ranging from rapid target acquisition to surveillance and reconnaissance in the form of a ruggedized heads-up display.
New suppressors for Marines
As Task & Purpose previously reported, Marine grunts in close combat formations will start receiving 5.56 small arms suppressors from Knight’s Armament Company for use on the Corps’ arsenal of M27 Infantry Automatic Rifles, M4 carbines, and M4A1 Close Quarter Battle Weapons in fiscal year 2021. As a Marine Corps Systems Command spokesman said at the time, the service’s intent is “to posture our Marines with capability now in order to improve the lethality of our Marine Corps Close Combat Forces.”
New sniper rifles for soldiers and Marines
Both the Army and Marine Corps included the Multi-Role Adaptive Design (MRAD) bolt-action sniper rifle from Barrett Firearms in their respective budget requests for fiscal year 2021, which is tucked into the defense budget bill currently winding its way through the U.S. government. While deliveries of the MRAD as the Mk 22 will commence for U.S. Special Operations Command under its Advanced Sniper Rifle program in Jan. 2021, it’s likely these specialized rifles might end up filtering down to conventional forces for testing and training over the next year.
New(ish) grenade launchers for Marines
Years after the Army first adopted its new bloopers, the Marine Corps finally fielded its new M320A1 grenade launcher to grunts at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina back in March of this year, part of the service’s push to equip all infantry units with the side-loading 40mm weapon in fiscal year 2021. Just a note: Civilians have rocked this system in ‘Battlefield’ for the last decade.
Lighter body armor for Marines
The Marine Corps in April began fielding the new 25 percent-lighter Plate Carrier Generation III to grunts ahead of a push to reach full operational capability for the new vest by fiscal year 2023. The system “improves the Marines’ ability to shoot and move by eliminating excess bulk from the design, and cutting out the shoulders for a better rifle stock weld,” according to the service.
Cold weather boots for Marines
The Marine Corps in December announced the service was finally fielding its new Intense Cold Weather Boot, a “full-grain, leather boot designed for use in temperatures as cold as -20 degrees Fahrenheit,” according to the service. The new boot will fill the capability gap between the existing Temperate Weather Marine Corps Combat Boot and Extreme Cold Weather Vapor Barrier Boot in use by the service.
A Next Generation Squad Weapon for soldiers?
Not likely. Although the Army has for more than a year been testing prototypes from General Dynamics-OTS, AAI Corporation Textron Systems, and Sig Sauer for new 6.8mm carbine and automatic rifles systems to replace the M4 carbine and M249 Squad Automatic Weapon, the service still doesn’t plan on actually downselecting a final group of systems and fielding them to soldiers until at least 2022.