The Dutch Marine Corps Rifle Platoon, 1996-2002

The logo of the Dutch Marine Corps<br>Qua Patet Orbis – As Far as the World Extends

Following the end of the Cold War, the Dutch Marine Corps reoriented itself from its role on NATO’s Northern flank (as described in the 1978 post) to a more expeditionary role in both a humanitarian and peacekeeping context.

This included the 1991 Operation “Safe Haven” (also known as Provide Comfort) in Northern Iraq and Turkey, the 1992-93 UN missions UNAMIC and UNTAC in Cambodia, a 1994 UN mission in Rwanda, the 1995-96 UN mission UNMIH in Haiti, and the (then-ongoing) UN operation in former Yugoslavia.

The 1990s saw a transition in terms of equipment as well, with the Browning High Power being replaced by the Glock 17, and the FN FAL being replaced by the Diemaco.

As a source for this post, the Handboek voor de Marinier dated to the 7th of May, 1996. The post is further supported by the 2002 version of the Handboek, published in October of 2002 and replacing the former. As a secondary source, Over Grenzen: Het Korps Mariniers na de val van de Muur, 1989-2015 by Arthur ten Cate, Sven Maaskant, Jaus Müller, and Quirijn van der Vegt is used. (The title translates to “Beyond Borders: The Marine Corps after the fall of the [Berlin] Wall, 1989-2015”)

The 1996 handbook provides us with the following structure for the platoon:

The manual's page concerning the platoon

A translation of the above schematic

The platoon
The infanteriepeloton (infantry platoon) consists of a pelotonscommandant infanteriepeloton (platoon commander infantry platoon), pelotonsstaf (platoon staff / headquarters), and three geweergroepen (rifle squads).

The platoon headquarters is composed of the opvolgend pelotonscommandant (deputy platoon commander / second-in-command), ordonnans (messenger), mortierschutter 60mm (60mm mortar gunner), helper mortierschutter (mortar assistant gunner) and pelotonsverpleger (platoon aid man).

In relation to the 1978 platoon, the Carl Gustav team (gunner and assistant) has been removed, as indeed the weapon has been replaced at the platoon level. The issues surrounding anti-tank weaponry is discussed in detail under the “armament” paragraph.
The AT-4 – the failed replacement for both the LAW and Carl Gustav.

The squad
The geweergroep (rifle squad) is made up of eight men: the groepscommandant (squad leader), two automatisch geweerschutters (automatic riflemen), two helpers ag-schutter (automatic rifleman assistants), a mitrailleur schutter (machine gunner), a helper mitrailleur schutter (assistant machine gunner) and finally an opvolgend geweergroepscommandant (deputy rifle squad leader).
The C7A1 Diemaco, core weapon of the new rifle platoon

Compared with the 1978 infantry platoon, the strength of the squad is decreased by a single rifleman. Given the increase in firepower afforded by the new 5.56mm weapons over the FAL and FALO, it is hard to argue this decrease in manpower causes a decrease in firepower.

The tactics of the rifle squad are based on fire and movement. It is noted that a successful attack is based on surprise, speed, concentration of fire, and a simple plan.

The attack is broken up into five parts:

- Planning and preparation
- Fire superiority and coordinated suppressive fire
- The attack
- The fight for the objective
- Reorganisation

The rifle squad may use the following formations, which are given in both Dutch and English. Please note that the terminology may not exactly match British or American terminology, and as such, a literal translation is added where necessary.

Dutch English Literal translation
enkel colonne single file
colonne (staggered) file file
A formatie arrowhead “A” formation
A formative met mag in het midden spearhead “A” formation with MAG in the centre
ruit formatie diamond
linie extended line line

The platoon may use a “one up”, “two up”, or file formation. The spacing between men is 5 to 7 metres, though this will decrease during darkness.

Two forms of defence are noted: the permanent and hasty defence. Time allowing, a permanent defence is constructed, consisting of fighting holes and optimal means of communication. With little or no time, natural cover is used in a hasty defence.

Key to an effective defence are: depth, overlapping fields of fire, the ability to defend around the entire circumference of the position, camouflage, reserves, and an offensive attitude. Indeed, it is noted that “the attack is the best defence”.

The mid 90s represented a significant era of change for the Dutch Armed Forces, so too in terms of small arms.

The <i>pistool van 9 mm Glock 17</i>
First of all, the Browning High Power (pistool van 9 mm, nr. 6, s-aut) is use with the Marines since 1958 was replaced with the Glock 17 in 1994. With the pistool van 9 mm Glock 17, the Dutch Marines acquired a pistol some 250 grammes lighter, carrying 4 more rounds.

Weighing only 620 grammes unloaded, the Glock 17 totals 870 grammes with a fully-loaded 17-round magazine inserted. Measuring 203 millimetres overall with a 114 millimetre barrel, the Glock does not differ significantly from the Browning High Power in size: both are full-size combat handguns.

Even more important was the rifle. The FN FAL which had been in service since 1961 had become outdated by the late 1980s, as FN stopped manufacture of parts specific to the Dutch model. In addition, the 5.56×45mm NATO cartridge was standardized in 1980, providing a more suitable cartridge for rifles.

The <i>geweer van 5,56 mm NATO, C7A1</i>
As a result of trials from 1987 to 1994, the Diemaco C7 (broadly speaking an M16A2 equivalent) was selected to replace the FN FAL. For the Navy, 4750 rifles were ordered, specifically the geweer van 5,56 mm NATO, C7A1, a fully- automatic variant with C79 scope.

With a loaded weight of 4.4 kilogrammes (including the C79 scope), the C7A1 represented a significant decrease in weight compared to the FN FAL (weighing 5.7 kilogrammes loaded, without a scope).

Alongside the C7A1, the Korps Mariniers adopted 535 light support variants, designated the Licht Ondersteunend Automatisch Wapen or LOAW (light supportive automatic weapon). In much the same way the FALO complemented the FAL, this heavier variant replaced the FALO within the squad.

The <i>Licht Ondersteunend Automatisch Wapen</i>
Weighing 5.42 kilogrammes unloaded, the total weight including a loaded magazine and C79 scope comes in at a heavy 6.59 kilos. The C79 scope weighs 690 grammes, whilst each loaded magazine weighs 480 grammes. For both weapons, the overall length was 1 metre, whilst the barrel measured 530 millimetes.

Next up we have the mitrailleur van 7,62 mm NATO, MAG, FN, the only weapon to be retained from the previous series of weapons. Indeed, two automatic rifles were not enough, and the 7.62×51mm general purpose machine gun was kept in the rifle squad. As such, the squad retained the capability to “reach out and touch someone”.

The MAG is use
The MAG team opens fire based on standardized commands: “MAG-team, distance in metres, position of the target, fire/rapid fire/assault fire”.

The first two types of fire signify 25 or 100 rounds per minute, whilst assault fire consists of the maximum rate of fire – as fast as the crew can load and change barrels. Assault fire is only used when a large number of targets present themselves at short range, or during an ambush (effectively the same scenario).
Based upon Army manuals (which are referenced throughout the Marine handbook), the gunner carries the MAG itself, the tool bag, and a single ammunition box. The assistant carries the spare barrel in its bag, and two ammunition boxes.

Ammunition is linked as ball only, 1:4 tracer to ball, or 1:2:2 tracer to ball to armour-piercing. The specific type used is dependent on the unit’s needs. The 230-round belt is commonly divided into four lengths of 57/58 rounds, so as to allow the weapon to be fired on the move. Indeed, the drill for "leaving a position" is to unload the weapon and load one such 57/58 round "action belt".

With regards to anti-tank weaponry, the LAW was replaced by the AT-4, known to the Marine Corps as the Wapensysteem 84 mm, M136 (Weapon system 84 mm, M136).

Introduced in 1994 to fully replace the M72A2 LAW and partly replace the Carl Gustav M2 (being retained at the company level), the AT-4 was found to be a thoroughly disappointing weapon. Indeed, by 1997, parliament was already discussing its replacement. The AT-4 was considered insufficiently effective against both current generation and predicted next-generation tanks, whilst its range was rated as “only” 400 metres. Upon the introduction of the M72 and Carl Gustav M2, the former was rated as a 200 metre weapon, whilst the latter was thought to be effective up to 500 metres.

To explain the dissatisfaction, we must consider the characteristics of the M72A2, AT-4, and Carl Gustav.

The M72A2 weighs 2.1 kilogrammes, whilst measuring only 650 millimetres when stowed. As a single-shot weapon, it is equipped with rudimentary sights, limiting range to 200 and 300 metres for moving and stationary targets respectively. Penetration is considered to be 25-30 centimetres of RHA. The Carl Gustav M2 sits on the other end of the spectrum, measuring 1130 milimetres whilst weighing 15.3 kilos. The 2× scope in its pouch weighed another 1.43 kilos. As a crew-served weapon, it was manned by two marines, who could achieve a rate of fire of 6 to 7 shots per minute. 30 to 40 centimetres of RHA penetration can be achieved.
The AT-4 and its parts

The AT-4 occupies an awkward place in between, being neither as light as the M72, nor being capable of as great a rate of fire as the Carl Gustav M2. As a single-shot weapon weighing 6.7 kilogrammes, the slight increase in range (100 metres) and penetration (10 to 15 cm) over the M72 were marginal for triple the cost in weight.

All of this is more so a criticism of the Dutch procurement process, than it is of the AT-4. The AT-4 is an useful weapon in its own right, but it cannot simply replace two entirely different anti-tank weapons.

A replacement was eventually found in 2004, in the form of the Panzerfaust 3 (rated for 300 metres) and Panzerfaust 3 Dynarange (rated for 600 metres).

Glock 17 C7A1 LOAW MAG AT-4
Calibre 9×19mm 5.56×45mm 5.56×45mm 7.62×51mm 84mm
Empty weight* 620g 3.23kg 5.24kg 10.5kg 4.9kg****
Loaded weight* 870g 4.4kg 6.59kg -** 6.7kg
Length 203mm 1000mm 1000mm 1370mm 1010mm
Barrel length 114mm 530mm 530mm ***
Capacity 17 30 30 230** Single-shot

* The empty weights signify the weight of the weapon without any feed device or scope. In case of the C7A1 and LOAW, the C79 scope weighing 690 grammes is included only in the loaded weight.
** An ammunition box containing 230 rounds weighs 8.5 kilogrammes.
*** The barrel length is not given in Dutch manuals; presumably, it is comparable to the British L7A2 at 629mm with flash hider.
**** Although not particularly relevant to combat use, the empty tube of an AT-4 weighs 4.9 kilogrammes, as the warhead weighs 1.8 kilogrammes.

For information on the 60mm mortar, we turn to the Handboek voor de Marinier of 2002, page 26-2:
“The assault mortar of the “COMMANDO” type is a supporting INDIRECT FIRING weapon used at the platoon level. The weapon is especially suited to the firing upon targets behind vertical cover, as well as quick support of infantry units and on targets which impede the progress of friendly units.”

The 60mm mortar in use<br>Note that the gunners do not appear to be Marines

Specifications are as follow:

Calibre 60 mm 2.36 in
Barrel length 65 cm 25.6 in
Total length 68 cm 26.8 in
Total weight 7.7 kg 17 lbs
Firing mechanism Fixed firing pin
Aiming by means of direction By means of the painted white line
Aiming by means of elevation From min. 35 to max. 85 by means of the commando sight and sling
Transport By means of the carrying sling or a special case
Maximum range 1050 m HE
1150 m illumination
1148 yds HE
1257 yds illumination
Minimum range 100 m 109 yds
Rate of fire The barrel is designed for 20 shots per minute
limited 20 shots per minute
unlimited 15 shots per minute
Types of ammunition HE

The current website of the Ministry of Defence notes that the model is a Hotchkiss-Brandt TDA MO-60-CV commando mortar.

For grenades, a number of different types are available. These are the nr. 20 and 20C1 fragmentation, the nr. 17 offensive, nr. 7C2 smoke, nr. 22 coloured smoke, and nr. 23 white phosphorus.

The nr. 20, nr. 20C1, and nr. 17 grenades

The nr. 7C2, nr. 22, and nr. 23 grenades

Specifications can be found in the table below:

nr. 20/20C1 nr. 17 nr. 7C2 nr. 22 nr. 23
Weight (g) 360 475 660 495 500
Delay (sec) 3-4 3-4 1-3 4-5 3-4
Kill radius (m) 10 - - - -
Casualty radius (m) 20 - - - -
Burn time (sec) - - 50 70-110 -

Distribution of armaments and ammunition
Although the manual does not explicitly state the weaponry of each individual Marine, some rather safe assumptions can be made based on the nature of the weaponry, the roles assigned, and the 1978 platoon structure (which does include the specific individual weaponry).

Obviously, the automatic rifleman is issued the automatic rifle, i.e. the LOAW. Similarly, the machine gunner is assigned the MAG. It is assumed the machine gunner still carries his rifle as per the 1978 platoon, an assumption made more reasonable by the lighter weight of the Diemaco, in addition to at least one illustration showing the machine gunner with a Diemaco slung on his back.
An MAG-gunner with a slung Diemaco on his back

Although no platoon aid man is present under the 1978 organisation, it seems fair to assume a Glock 17, given the Marine’s non-combat and support role. For the rest of the men, their weapon under the 1978 platoon structure is replaced by the appropriate weapon. This means that the Uzi Nr. 7 and FN FAL are replaced by the C7A1, whilst the Browning High Power is replaced by the Glock 17. This gives us the following table of equipment and organisation:

Role 1978 1996
Platoon commander Uzi Nr. 7 Diemaco C7A1
Platoon sergeant Uzi Nr. 7 Diemaco C7A1
Messenger Browning High-Power Glock 17
Platoon aid man Not present Glock 17
60mm mortar gunner Browning High-Power + 60mm mortar Glock 17 + 60mm mortar
60mm mortar assistant gunner Browning High-Power Glock 17
Carl Gustav gunner Browning High-Power + CG M2 Not present, CG replaced by the AT-4
Carl Gustav assistant [gunner] Browning High-Power
Rifle squads (×3)
Squad leader Uzi Nr. 7 Diemaco C7A1
Automatic rifleman FN FALO Diemaco LOAW
Assistant automatic rifleman FN FAL Diemaco C7A1
Automatic rifleman FN FALO Diemaco LOAW
Assistant automatic rifleman FN FAL Diemaco C7A1
Machine gunner FN FAL + MAG Diemaco C7A1 + MAG
Assistant machine gunner FN FAL Diemaco C7A1
Rifleman FN FAL Not present
Assistant squad leader FN FAL Diemaco C7A1

The number of AT-4s issued is hard to determined, as the single-shot launcher is treated more so as an ammunition than a weapon. The number of AT-4s carried most likely depended upon the expected number of enemy armoured vehicles.

With regards to ammunition carried, there is the following overview:

Weapon Ammunition carried
Glock 17 34
Diemaco C7A1 150
Diemaco LOAW 390
MAG 690

Jungle training in Belize, 1998
With the introduction of the Diemaco (automatic) rifle, the Marine infantrymen finally found themselves equipped with a modern rifle, suited to the realities of combat. Whilst the FN FAL is an excellent rifle in its own right, its heavy cartridge was based upon the archaic thinking of certain American theorists from the 1950s. It was quickly replaced as a standard rifle cartridge, at least in American service.

Nonetheless, the platoon retains three general purpose machine guns chambered in the 7.62×51mm cartridge, so as to maintain some longer-range potential. More so, the MAG continues to serve with Dutch Marines to this day, having received newer models of MAGs in 2016.

Although the Dutch Army would choose not to introduce the LOAW and instead adopt the FN Minimi in 2000, the automatic rifle approach has its merits, especially in combination with a 7.62mm GPMG such as the FN MAG. For comparison, a Dutch Army platoon (to be discussed in full in the near future) has two Minimis.

With regards to the actual structure of the platoon, very little has changed. The platoon headquarters has lost its Carl Gustav team, whilst each squad has lost a single rifleman. Although the latter loss in manpower is largely absorbed with the introduction of 5.56mm weaponry, the removal of the Carl Gustav team proved to be a problem.

Although the AT-4 was introduced to replace it, the weapon was found inadequate, with a replacement being discussed following little more than three years of service.

Thankfully, the lack of effective anti-tank weapons did not present a problem on operations, as the marines were engaged in UN-missions against lightly armed opponents instead of fighting an armoured onslaught.

It would strongly appear the structure described above has been used at least until 2002, as the Handboek voor de Marinier 2002 notes the following organisation for the company, platoon, and squad:

The company organisation, 2002
Clearly, the number of men per squad and platoon has remained the same. As the weaponry has not changed in the years 1996-2002, it is likely the organisation remained was similar if not the same. At most, the platoon layout remained in use until 2013, when large reforms were made to structure of the Korps Mariniers.

The reforms of 2013

Once again, we can see that the number of men to a squad (8) and platoon (30) is equal, suggesting once more that the organisation remained relatively stable.

After 2013, the eight-man rifle squads were reformed sixteen-man Raiding Sections, whilst the 30-man platoon was turned into a 32-man Raiding Troop.

This concludes the three-part series on the Dutch Korps Mariniers, having discussed the 1963, 1978, and 1996-2002 organisational structure of the rifle platoon.

Although it is entirely possible more documentation concerning the Dutch Marine Corps' squad, platoon, or company level organizations finds a home in my collection - ideally, a manual concerning the years 1945-1949 - I will have to leave it at this for the time being. Next up, the French Army in the years 1972-1999 will be discussed, using four different manuals and points in time.

Footnotes Disclaimer: Wherever applicable, images are sourced from and taken by a member of the Ministry of Defence and are not my own.