The Army and Marine Corps have both been working on new
small-arms programs for years.
The Marine Corps will distribute the M27 more widely,
but the Army says it’s moving ahead with plans for a new
The Army is also bringing its modernization programs
under one roof to streamline development.
The Army and the Marine Corps have both been looking for new
small arms, and while the Marines have decided to give the M27 to a
wider portion of the force, the Army says it will forge ahead
with the development of a totally new, next-generation rifle.
The Army ditched plans for a interim
replacement for the M16/M4 platform in November, announcing
that it would direct funds dedicated to that effort to the
development of the Next Generation Squad Weapon, which will be
the permanent replacement for the current rifle platform.
The program will now proceed in two phases, senior Army officers
told a Senate Armed Services subcommittee this week. Lt. Gen.
John Murray, Army deputy chief of staff, G-8, said the first step
will be acquiring the 7.62 mm Squad Designated Marksmanship
“That gives us the ability to penetrate the most advanced body
armor in the world,” Murray told the subcommittee, responding to
questions about shortcomings in the Army’s
current rifles and ammunition.
“We are accelerating the Squad Designated Marksman Rifle to
2018,” he said, according to Military.com. “We
will start fielding that in 2018.”
Murray said distribution of the
advanced 7.62 mm armor-piercing round, which the Army hoped to
see this year, won’t happen until 2019. But the SDMR, he added,
“will still penetrate that body armor, but you can’t get that
extended range that is possible with the next-generation round.”
The second phase will be the adoption of the Army’s Next
Generation Squad Weapon. Murray said the Army would not follow
the Marine Corps’ lead with the M27.
“We’ve been pushed on the M27, which the Marine Corps has
adopted. That is also a 5.56 mm, which doesn’t penetrate,” he
told senators, according to Marine Corps
Times. “So we’re going to go down the path of [the] Next
Generation Squad Weapon.”
The first version to arrive will likely be the an automatic
rifle to replace the M249 squad automatic weapon, which also
fires a 5.56 mm round, Murray said.
The Marines brought in the M27 in 2010 to replace the M249. The Corps
has kept both weapons, equipping the automatic rifleman in each
infantry fire team with an M27 — though it began looking at wider distribution of the
rifle among infantrymen in 2016. An M27 variant has also been
tested as the Corps’ squad-designated marksman weapon.
Murray told senators that the Army’s M249 replacement is
“to be closely followed, I’m hopeful, with either a rifle or a
carbine that will fire something other than a 5.56 mm.”
Murray added that the new rifle
likely won’t fire 7.62 mm rounds either, but rather some caliber
in between, potentially a “case-telescoping round, probably
polymer cased to reduce the weight of it.”
Murray said the Army has a
demonstration version of the NGSW, which was made by Textron
System. But, he added, it is “too big” and “too heavy,” and the
Army had opened the process to the commercial industry to offer
new ideas or a prototype for the new weapon.
The new rifle might weigh more than the current rifle, but
the ammunition will likely weigh less, and it would offer better
penetration and greater range.
“That is what we see as a replacement for the M4 in
the future,” Murray said.
Army Brig. Gen. Brian Cummings — who, as the Army’s Program
Executive Office Soldier, oversees the programs that provide most
of a soldier’s gear and weapons — said late last year that the
Army is likely to see the first NGSW by 2022, with other
enhancements arriving by 2025.
The Army also began distributing its new sidearms, the M17 and
M18, late last year. A Pentagon report issued in January detailed several problems that
cropped up during testing in 2017, but the Army and the
manufacturer downplayed the severity of those issues.
The Army has made several attempts to replace the M4 in recent
years. Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy told Army Times this week that
an M4 replacement was one of the top two priorities of the
service’s new Futures Command, which will
bring the Army’s modernization priorities together under the
umbrella of a new organization.
“We’ve started conversations with Congress,” McCarthy said of the
command, which was announced in October. “If we were to move out
this spring, we could even start by the end of this calendar
The development process for Army equipment, including rifles, is
to be streamlined under Futures Command, overseen by
cross-functional teams that correspond to the service’s six
modernization priorities, according to Defense News.