US Marines Begin Move to 15-Man Squads

The first operational deployment of the newly restructured United States Marine Corps’ rifle squad is imminent according to a recent report in Marine Times. Marines from the 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment will be the first to adopt the new structure which adds two Marines to each infantry squad.

Experiments have been underway since at least 2016 with varying the size and structure of the Marine infantry squad from its standard of three, four-man fire teams, and a squad leader. Originally the 15-man structure was considered only for Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) deployments but now appears to be the agreed future structure.

In late 2018, a move to a reduced, 12-man, squad was announced but has been eclipsed by the addition of two new billets to every Marine squad. A squad systems operator (SSO) has been added to manage squad level unmanned aerial systems (UAS), originally in response to the USMC’s ‘Quads for Squads’ project to embed quad-copter UAS platforms within every rifle squad, and responsible for man-pack counter-IED (improvised explosive device) and electronic counter-measures (ECM) systems.

The second addition is an assistant squad leader to help command and control (previously one of the fire team leaders was appointed to this role) whilst also focusing on managing fire support and communications on the company and battalion net, freeing up the squad leader to focus on fighting the battle.

Along with the UAS, the InstantEye Mk-3 GEN5-D1 platform, the rifle squads will be receiving the 84mm Carl Gustav M3 recoilless rifle for anti-armour and bunker-busting along with a complement of three 40mm M320 standalone grenade launchers which are replacing the ageing M203 within the Corps.

In terms of small arms, every rifleman will be carrying the M27 IAR (Infantry Automatic Rifle, the USMC HK416 variant) apart from one designated marksman equipped with the M38, a bipod and suppressor-equipped M27 with the Leupold TS-30A2 Mark 4 MR/T optic. Earlier iterations of the 15-man model saw squad leadership and the SSO carrying the M4A1 (as their primary role was not engaging the enemy by direct fire) but current thinking appears to favour the M27 across the board.