An Iowa senator and her committee colleagues have amended the annual defense spending bill to speed up three Army small arms programs — the acquisition of a new interim service rifle, a squad designated marksman rifle and armor-piercing ammunition.
Sen. Joni Ernst, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, added the amendment following hearings earlier this year from retired Army generals who testified that the M4 and 5.56 mm round could not penetrate newer generation body armor.
The Army is in the process of developing a new service rifle to replace the M4 and M16 family of rifles, along with an intermediate caliber that would fall between 5.56 mm and 7.62 mm.
Soldiers could see a new rifle and larger round in a few years.
The Interim Service Rifle program aims to give soldiers a temporary replacement.
In August the Army revised its requirements for up to 50,000 of the off-the-shelf, commercially available 7.62 mm Interim Combat Service Rifle.
The amendment also expedites the Squad Designated Marksman Rifle program by one year. Earlier this year Army officials estimated it would take two years to field the new rifle. This amendment would cut that time frame by half.
The third program being sped up is acquisition of an armor-piercing bullet. Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley told Congress earlier this year that an armor-piercing 7.62 mm round was being developed. The amendment would speed up the program by two years.
The proposed amendments still must pass a vote by both the House and Senate.
Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Milley told senators Thursday that the Army has developed a round to penetrate 5.56mm-resistant body armor.