08/14/2014 04:49 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

21st Century Marine vs. Space Commando -- Who Wins? A Real Marine Breaks Down the Battle

This question originally appeared on Quora:Who would win between a Space Commando and a 21st century US Marine if the Space Commando can't use his plasma swords, photon blasters, cybernetic power suits, or holoshields?


Answer by Jon Davis, Marine, Veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom

This is also a follow up question and answer to: How well are modern troops in today's military trained in the use of melee weapons and would they be able to hold their own against a medieval knight?

The most important question, in keeping with the spirit of this briefing, is if the Space Commando's cybernetic and genetic augmentations count as weaponry?

In close range combat, the winner might not be so cut and dry, but under normal conditions, the Space Commando would be in for a tough fight if faced with a modern day United States Marine.


The Marines have among the best recruitment standards for any world class military today. Marine recruits are selected from only those Americans who have completed a secondary education and are among the most physically fit of the military aged pool. Recruit and initial combat training for infantry Marines is a year long process where the young Marine first endures three months infamously stressful training in the form of education, physical stress exercises, and military indoctrination at one of the two recruit training depots. Following this they are attached to the School of Infantry where they are trained in the mastery of all forms of squad based weapons and tactics. Next the young Marine will be stationed with a unit where training never stops as they are constantly bombarded with repetition, remediation, and the religious pursuit of martial perfection in the art of movement warfare. This training only intensifies in the presence of a looming deployment and doesn't stop once in theatre.

This is vastly different than the Space Commando's tutelage in the arts of war. Space Commandos are neither born, nor made. They are merely survivors of their training.

In a galactic empire stretching across trillions of souls, the disenfranchised, discarded, and disgraced untouchables lurking in the seamy underbelly of imperial society are gathered to be disposed of accordingly. Those youths are, more often than not, gathered in batches and shipped to the Imperial Orphanarium Colony. Despite the grueling conditions visited by this form of abandonment alone, the young children, nestlings, cubs and larvi must also contend with voracious carnivores, meat eating and poisonous flora, and not to forget each other. Those that survive the colony to reach their species' adulthood are then shipped to the Imperial Defense Forces Military Academy Receiving Station. While at Receiving they will receive a battery of surgical augmentations and cybernetic enhancements. Those 30% or so that survive the augmentation process and go on to the Academy and will spend the next several years training in the use of guided anti-matter munitions, reactive turret deployments, hovertank armaments and maintenance, and more. Of the 8% or so that survive the Academy, they are awarded the title of fully qualified members of the Commando Corps and are shipped to their unit assignments. After being placed with a unit they will be deployed to some mission somewhere across the cosmos. Always seeking efficiency in travel, and not wanting to lose valuable assets to the effects of aging over decades long space travel, the Empire implemented the hypersleep training system. While in hypersleep, a warrior's body is chronotantically frozen while his mind is placed in a virtual environment where he is subjected to any of the millions of military training scenarios that he and his squadmates will have the pleasure to endure. He will be bombarded over the course of decades with every imaginable battlefied circumstance, perhaps to even include this one. Over the course of decades, the battle which has been expected has played out in so many thousands of variants that, those who don't succumb to the mind numbing pressures of endured combat stress and the trauma of constantly repeated simulated deaths, are barely aware during the actual battle that there is any difference between the routine monotony of a hypersleep engagement.

In this regard, the Space Commando, clearly has the advantage.


One must understand that the modern warrior is not the lone archon of mayhem which he is often perceived to be by the uninformed Hollywood action feature or the mainstream media. Instead, he is an integral part of a team of living potential weapons of mass destruction, capable of utilizing the entire force of the United States military. Equipped with little more than modern radio equipment, the Marine could potentially call up airstrikes, medevac rescue, or initiate movement with his squad or even coordinate attacks across entire regiments.

Of course, the Space Commandos also function in this way. At his beck and call we would have to wonder if, under these conditions, the Commando would still be able to call in orbital bombardments, teleport in brain activity reading attack droids, or if he would even have the assistance of his squad's cybernetically enhanced Goorillian pterodactdogs.

For the purposes of this question, however, we will limit the fighting capabilities of both warriors to only that which can worn at the time of the duel and have not already been forbade in the question. After all, bringing in reinforcements would essentially ask the United States military to combat the combined fleet of the Imperial Armada, which would just as soon level the planet with a few cobalt encased neutron void spheres. This is not to mention the fact that any good Commando has saved himself more than a few times with the "assistance" of an unknowing gravometric bomb laden pterodactdog or two. So, for this battle, one-on-one combat will be the limiting condition.


Modern Marines carry a number of weapons. The standard issue rifle for a Marine Corps squad leader is varies between an M4 or a M16A4 with attached M203 grenade launcher and ACOG sighting system. Since they are required to qualify for the weapon at up to 500 yards and spend a majority of their time training within 200, and having amassed exceptional expertise in close quarters, urban infantry tactics, the Marine is amply suited to this engagement. Along with this is the M203's ability to deliver 40mm grenades at a range of 300 meters which can facilitate high explosive, incendiary and fragmentation damage, effectively killing anything within a radius of 5 meters of the impact site and causing grievous injury out to 25, for normal humans anyway. The Space Commando will have quite a difficult, if not impossible, time penetrating the Marines shell of efficient destruction within a 25o meter radius. Along with this is the M9 pistol used for a side arm which, in the event of a close encounter and no other source of weaponry, will provide a lethal counter to any aggressor within 25 yards.

The Commando here is at a serious disadvantage. It's questionable if Commandos would have ever thought to disable all possible offensive and defensive technologies at one single time in a training environment. Without the power suits, it is doubtful that the massive hulks would be able to perform with the same majestic grace which has allowed them to conquer the inner worlds. Without the holoshields, they would be helplessly exposed to the primitive kinetic impact rounds and archaic use of flying shards of fire and metal. No longer able even to use their primary weapons system, their side arms, the self guided photon blasters and plasma swords, he will be unmatched in a mid to long range fight.

The only true weapon he has left at that range, since most technology is lost to him, would be is Kildakan Death Slug which many seasoned veterans of the Quorachek campaign will carry somewhere in their packs. The Death Slug is a larval form of the Kildakan Murder Beetle, which itself is only the adolescent stage of the Atrocoraptor. While the adult Atrocoraptors have been known to level entire colonies, due in part to their colossal size and, in equal measure, severely lacking demeanor, the larval stages can be trained as suitable complements to the Space Commando's arsenal. Once the slug has been given a target, they will hunt down the target mercilessly, crossing oceans and deserts if need be, to close with its kill. The larva won't eat, sleep or stop until it reaches its physiologically locked target. If one can avoid its pursuit long enough they can survive. Usually three weeks without a kill will produce a rupture in its venom sacks, though there are few who have seen this actually happen.

Of course, the real question is if we are allowed to consider the commandos themselves a weapon. Having been subjected to a centuries long progression of augmentation to the Commando's body and mind, the augments have now become a necessary part of their ability to live. To disallow them would render the Space Commando not only weakened and vulnerable, but also dead. Besides dealing with the Space Commando's massive hide, brute strength, unmatched speed, and adrenal amplification, all of which allowing the Commando to barrel through the most grievous of injuries, would the Marine be able to provide enough lethality to overcome his adversary's other various modifications? For example, would the Marine be able to successfully deliver a killing blow while aiming center mast of the target, when the heart has been moved to fit inside the dorsal appendage? If he did manage this, would he even have the means to discover there was a second heart installed in the lower abdomen, which can provide sustainability if the first fails, before it was too late? Lastly, would the Marine be able to deliver a killing blow fast enough that the automated repair nanites aren't able to heal any damage that the Marine's primitive weapons could have inflicted? Healing time for severe injuries typically average about eight minutes, so one can only hope the Marine disposes of the body quickly. Fire in this case would be the best weapon.


In spite of the Space Commando's impressive armaments in the form of bodily augmentation, the Marine is simply too equipped for the battle at hand. Even given the impressive speed and durability of a Commando, the distance to cover while under extreme fire would be too much for his non-shielded body to sustain. Perhaps if he were able to sneak in slow enough for his wounds to heal over time, he could wear down the Marine's ammunition reserves and perhaps even could get in close enough and tear the Marine asunder. In hand-to-hand combat, the Commando would surely enjoy the advantage, but in the 300 to 5 meter zone of this battle, he will face a constant barrage of rifle fire and 40mm grenades, raining down lethally precise bullets and fragmentation assaults.

It isn't to say anything against the Space Commando. His kind has endured the most harrowing of battles throughout the past six hundred years. Of the trillions of citizens of the Empire, only this select few hundred thousand or so battle hardened warriors protect and project the Empire's interests. Never before have so few defended so many. But today is the perfect storm for the galaxy's most feared warrior of all time. Under no normal situation would he ever be left with absolutely none of his advanced armaments and gear and so miserably outside his realm of lethal mastery.

The United States Marine, however, is his perfect element. He is engineered to deliver lethal fire upon any enemy at a distance and in keeping with the Marine Corps mantra that "Every Marine is a Riflemen", the Commando would simply never be capable of enduring the prolonged flood of projectile death being dealt his way.

While it is true that the Marine may not realize the need to ensure that a dead Commando is really dead, and though he will likely fall victim to becoming the eventual pupa to a larval stage atrocoraptor, this battle was built for the Marine to win, and under normal conditions, whatever normal may be in this situation, the unarmed Commando would simply never be able to get close.

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