TW recently attended a pre-deployment work-up of a MARSOC (Marine Special Operations Command) team at Camp Pendleton, CA in which a number of new weapon systems and high-tech equipment were wrung out. This particular team was set to deploy to Afghanistan and was conducting MOUT (Military Operations in Urban Terrain) training in a mock village.
A MARSOC team consists of 14 men, commanded by a captain. There are four teams in a company, and there are four companies in a MSOB (Marine Special Operations Battalion). The day I observed the team, they were practicing a coordinated assault of two HUMVEEs on the “village” with the MARSOC Marines then conducting house-to-house clearing drills.
Part of the training included several of the Marines testing this new gear which ranged from a radically lightweight helmet, to a thermal breeching tool, to a new battle uniform. I wasn’t so much interested in their assault techniques or the way their HUMVEEs whisked through the “village” to keep their heavy machineguns bearing on their respective fire-zones: I was interested in their new toys.
Here are the highlights of what is the cutting-edge latest in high-tech weaponry that had the attention of these tip-of-the-spear MARSOC Marines.
Wilcox Vertical Grip
Wilcox Industries describes itself as a “job shop for Special Forces.” The innovative company has designed and manufactured everything from components for thermal sights to a navigation board for high-altitude jumping to a breathing apparatus for chem-bio hazards. Given their penchant for James Bondian devices, it came as a bit of a surprise to see Wilcox’s new vertical grip, a fairly low-tech piece of gear.
I should have known better than to judge a grip by its cover. Inside the Wilcox Universal Grip is a self-locking, self-deploying bipod. Machined from aircraft-grade aluminum and Mil-Spec anodized, the Universal Grip also serves as a master control for a separate IR laser and a white light.
Two small female plug holes are available on the Universal Grip that utilize the industry standard plug developed by Insight Technology for the ATPIAL laser (currently standard issue to Special Operations as part of the SOPMOD kit). A central toggle switch on the rear of the grip switches between the two plugs to trigger either the IR laser, white light or to deactivate them both. There is a momentary and constant-on button at the rear of the grip, suitable for either left- or right-hand use.
There’s a “dumb” version of the Universal Grip called the Steady Grip that has the same built-in bipod but lacks the electronic interface for lasers and lights. Wilcox also offers a Para Grip which folds flat against the rifle’s forearm.
New helmet from Ops-Core shaves weight and adds comfort with size-specific padded linings and chin straps.
Shaving 20 percent of the weight off a standard MICH helmet, the new FAST helmet is made of carbon fiber and proprietary materials to offer NIJ Level IIIA and U.S. Army ACH specification ballistic protection—at less than three pounds! Ops-Core developed and manufactures the new helmet, which features four-position accessory rails for SureFire helmet lights, IR strobes or other attachments—non-snag and compatible with emergency break-away mounts.
The fit and comfort of the FAST helmet is light years ahead of a MICH brain bucket. There’s what Ops-Core calls an Occ-Dial at the back that expands or contracts the helmet’s cushioned inner liner for a custom fit. The chinstraps are even custom sized.
A MARSOC/WARCOM mount for NODs comes on the helmet as standard equipment along with two bungee straps to hold the NOD tight to the helmet it case it’s bumped out of its mount. One thing you don’t want is to drop your $8,000 NODs and lose them in the dark. The FAST helmet prevents this. The straps also prevent vibration or rattle from NODs.
Ops-Core also makes a non-ballistic version of the FAST helmet called the BUMP helmet. It features the same NOD mount and adjustable cushioned liner, but tips the sales at only 1.5 pounds. As its name implies, the BUMP is good to prevent knocks on the noggin, but won’t stop a projectile.