The Marine Corps has selected the infantry automatic rifle made by Heckler & Koch as the weapon that will replace the M249 Squad Automatic Weapon in infantry fire teams, a senior service official told Marine Corps Times on Wednesday.
The H&K IAR “was truly the best in the class on multiple levels and will finally allow the billet of automatic rifleman to be performed as intended without the disruption of the squad integrity that the M249 created,” Chief Warrant Officer 5 Jeffrey Eby, the Corps’ senior gunner, said in an e-mail.
Despite what is said in the above quotation, I do not think that the SAW is being replaced outright. The Marine Times has at times reported that the SAW would be replaced with the IAR, and at other times reported that it would augment the IAR, not replace it …
The plan is to buy 4,100 IARs and reduce the number of SAWs in the Corps from 10,000 to 8,000, Cantwell said.
“We are still going to maintain SAWs in the company,” he said. “Only 2,000 SAWs will be replaced. The reminder will be kept as an organizational weapon for when commanders need them.”
The H&K entry was a modified version of their HK416 piston-operated AR-15 rifle. Unlike the Colt and FN entries, it is said to fire only from a closed bolt. Given the lack of an open-bolt fire mode I had presumed it was the least likely choice for an automatic rifle.
Presumably it is fitted with a heavy barrel, like H&K’s previous, and commercially unsuccessful, attempt at the automatic rifle: the MG36. The Marine Corps has been reporting the weight of the 16.5″ barreled H&K IAR as being 7.9 lbs. This is not possible as a standard 16.5″ barreled Hk416 weights in at 7.84 lbs. I also think that the photo of the H&K IAR shown by the Military Times is that of a standard HK416.
I have contacted H&K to see if they are willing to publicly acknowledge if they have won. If they do, I will endeavor to get the specs of the new weapon.
UPDATE: The Marines Times has an updated article here.
Many thanks to Mark and Matt for sending me the news.