US Army to Develop New 7.62 mm Rifle as Replacement for Colt M4

Arthur J. Villasanta – Fourth Estate Contributor

Washington, DC, United States (4E) – The U.S. Army has formally launched a competition for a more lethal interim assault rifle whose successor will eventually replace the ubiquitous Colt M4 carbines that entered Army service in 1994.

The new rifle will fire the heavier 7.62mm round deemed better at piercing the latest body armor systems worn by men of the Ground Forces of the Russian Federation and, to some extent, the People’s Liberation Army Ground Force.

Two months ago, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley told Congress the M4 Carbine’s M855A1 Enhanced Performance Round can’t penetrate modern enemy body armor plates similar to the U.S. military-issue rifle plates such as the Enhanced Small Arms Protective Insert.

The army wants its new “Interim Service Combat Rifle” (ISCR) to penetrate the latest enemy body armor.

“The Army has identified a potential gap in the capability of ground forces and infantry to penetrate body armor using existing ammunition. To address this operational need, the Army is looking for an Interim Combat Service Rifle (ISCR) that is capable of defeating emerging threats,” said the Army solicitation for the ISCR.

The Army will initially award up to eight contracts, and buy seven types of weapons from each gunmaker for test and evaluation purposes. After an in-depth review of the competing rifles, the Army could award a single follow-on Federal Acquisition Regulation based contract for the production of up to 50,000 weapons.

“The Government has a requirement to acquire a commercial 7.62mm ICSR to field with the M80A1 Enhanced Performance Round (EPR) to engage and defeat protected and unprotected threats,” said the solicitation.

“The ultimate objective of the program is to acquire and field a 7.62mm ICSR that will increase soldier lethality.”

The last U.S. Army battle rifle that fired a 7.62 mm round was the heavy M14, which was the standard issue infantry rifle from 1959 to 1964 when the M16 automatic rifle began replacing it. The M14 fired a 7.62×51mm NATO round compared to the M16’s 5.56x45mm NATO.

The Colt M4 carbine, today’s standard infantry rifle for U.S. troops, fires a 5.56x45mm NATO round.

Sources said U.S. Army troops that served in Iraq and Afghanistan complained of getting into fights in with “a guy with longer arms” such as the Russian-made PK general purpose machine gun firing 7.62x54mmR rounds and the Dragunov SVD sniper rifle firing the same caliber ammunition.

The 7.62x54mmR round has an effective range of 1,000 yards versus 350 yards for an AK-47 and 550 yards for the M4. This means U.S. Army troops are outranged by foes armed with weapons firing the 7.62x54mmR round.

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