The Army is scouting out an off-the-shelf, interim rifle in 7.62mm.
A May 31 request for information set June 6 as the deadline for industry submissions to provide five systems to Picatinny Arsenal in New Jersey with the potential to manufacture 10,000 rifles for the Army.
The Interim Combat Service Rifle must be commercially available, chambered in 7.62mm, a round already used by the U.S. military and its NATO allies and fired in the M240 machine gun and some sniper rifle systems.
The ICSR would include both 16- and 20-inch barrel options and be adaptable for flash and sound suppression with a detachable magazine holding at least 20 rounds.
Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley told Congress that the 5.56mm round used in the M4 and one of the squad machine guns was not sufficient to penetrate newer enemy body armor.
A 7.62mm round was sufficient, he said.
On May 31 the Army also requested industry demonstrations, scheduled for July, for a weapon to replace the M249 Squad Automatic Weapon, the squad-level machine gun which fires 5.5 mm. The replacement machine gun did not have a caliber listed.
The Army's Maneuver Center of Excellence is currently developing intermediate caliber ammunition and rifles both for Infantry Automatic Rifle and for a light machine gun. The round would fall between 5.56mm and 7.62mm. Some experts say a round in that range would extend range and increase both accuracy and lethality.
In May, Army Times had a story tracing the history of intermediate caliber development and long-standing criticisms of the M16/M4 platform and the 5.56mm round.
Since that time, advocates for the new round have testified before a congressional subcommittee about the need for a new round/rifle combination.
In recent years, the Marine Corps has adopted the M27, made by Heckler and Koch, chambered in 5.56mm but also available in 7.62mm.
Some Marine units now have more M27s than SAWs but still carry both. A typical rifle company carries 27 IARs and six SAWs, a Marine Corps official said.
Todd South has written about crime, courts, government and the military for multiple publications since 2004 and was named a 2014 Pulitzer finalist for a co-written project on witness intimidation. Todd is a Marine veteran of the Iraq War.