It’s easy to fawn over military technology with multi-billion dollar price tags like new jets, hypersonic missiles, rail guns, and the like. What’s often ignored, however, are the little things. Sure, a single infantry rifle doesn’t make the biggest difference in the scope of an entire war, but incremental improvements spread across the breadth of the force add up fast. In fact, it may just be the little things that lead to victory… or defeat.
So here’s to the little things that are about to make a big difference for American troops.
Suppressors For Everyone
One of the more interesting infantry upgrades isn’t new technology by any means. Suppressors have been around for over a century at this point, but in military use, they’ve largely been relegated to special operations use. Now, the Marine Corps infantry aims to arm every infantryman with a suppressor for their M27 IAR rifle.
This isn’t intended to turn Marine Corps into sneaky, hidden warfighters who silently eliminate their enemies. Suppressors don’t work that well, especially on rifles firing supersonic ammunition.
However, they do reduce noise signature enough to improve command and control as well as communication between Marines. A reduction in noise and flash signature also make Marines harder to spot at a distance, making it more difficult for the bad guy to quickly acquire his target. It’s an old technology, but it makes for an awesome infantry upgrade.
Related: Every Marine is a rifleman—and now with a suppressor
The G28 DMR
The M27 IAR has become the modern do-it-all rifle for now, but the Army has other plans. The M27 is the Marine variant of the HK 416. HK also makes the 417/MR308, which is amps the 416 into full power rifle territory with the 7.62 NATO round. This became the designated marksman rifle (DMR) of the United States Army, dubbed the M110A1.
While the Marines stuck with 5.56 for their DMRs, the Army adopted the harder-hitting 7.62 NATO because it offers longer range and increased penetration when compared to the typical carbine. The rifle and associated long-range optic give the average infantry squad a double dose of infantry upgrades.
Related: Designated Marksman: The infantry squad’s long-distance solution
General Issue LPVOs
LPVO stands for Low-Powered Variable Optic. These versatile optics allow users to transition from a low setting of 1X magnification to various higher levels of magnification for longer engagements. The Marine Corps adopted the Trijicon VCOG, which offers Marine infantrymen a 1-8X optic. The VCOG allows for increased speed on target and almost red-dot level performance at closer rangers.
The 8X magnification setting makes far-away targets up close and personal. It also allows a shooter to zoom in and take precise shots at close range. These optics will enhance each Marine’s ability to scout areas and establish positive identification on threats at a greater distance. Most modern firearm subject matter experts have moved to LPVOs, and the Marines following suit makes for one of the more modern infantry upgrades around.
Related: Why the Marines chose an LPVO (it makes sense)
The Enhanced Night Vision Goggle-Binocular
One of the coolest infantry upgrades we’ve seen in recent years is the Enhanced Night Vision Goggle-Binocular—or ENVG-B. This new system isn’t being fully fielded yet, but it’ll change the game when it does. These new goggles combine standard night vision with thermals to allow soldiers to use them to see through battlefield obscurants and more under practically any conditions, including during the day.
In the future, the plan allows for soldiers to shoot around corners by linking rifle optics to the goggle’s feed. Troops will also be able to use them to display navigational and unit data right in their field of view. In other words, the ENVG-B aims to provide a video game-style HUD to soldiers on the battlefield. Before long, American troops will be able to own any vision-obscured battlefield, day or night.
Related: The view through the Army’s new night vision goggles is next level
Drones For Everyone
Both the Army and Marine Corps are big fans of drones. Drones have changed the battlefield for better and for worse, depending on who you are and how they’re used around you. In terms of infantry, they’ve typically been support assets, but now both the Army and Marine Corps plan to field-portable drones with their infantry units. These mini-drones will provide real-time, on-demand intelligence to the troops who need it most.
As a Marine, it’s tough to describe the fear of the violent unknown. During a firefight, every single corner presents fear. Microdrones would provide real-time feedback about what’s around the next corner before they cross it. Imagine how much faster a fight could be ended if drones get the jump on potential enemy forces. High-tech infantry upgrades like this will change the battlefield forever.
Related: America’s military drones are probably a lot bigger than you think
Infantry upgrades and the future of close combat
While it’s easy to focus on the missiles, jets, and space-age gadgets the military develops, the infantry will always hold a special place in my heart. The modern American infantry force is a surgical element that will always be needed. These infantry upgrades will only make them more efficient, more effective, and ultimately more lethal… And lethality is the ultimate goal of an infantry unit.
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