Earlier today, the United States Marine Corps Systems Command released a request for information (RFI) to manufacturers regarding the industry’s capability to fill an order for 11,000 new IAR-type rifles. You can read the RFI over at this link at FedBizOpps.
There has already been speculation that this RFI is an indication that the USMC plans to pure-fleet the M27 as the standard infantry weapon, replacing the M4 and M16 rifles. However, it should be noted that 11,000 IARs is not anywhere near enough weapons to replace all of the rifles in the Corps. There are currently 24 USMC infantry battalions of about 1,000 men per, which is expected to increase to 30 battalions in the near future. Including spares, et cetera, the minimum number of rifles needed to pure-fleet the Corps on M27 would have to be probably at least 40,000-50,000 rifles, if not more. An order of rifles of that size would very likely be far too expensive for the Marine Corps, making such a proposition a non-starter at the moment.
Likely, the purpose of the 11,000 rifle RFI is to explore further options for manufacturing IAR-type rifles to further replace the remaining M249 SAWs. While the Heckler & Koch M27 is a very good rifle, it is extremely expensive to procure, and presents problems for importation. Unit price for an M27 is far higher than for a comparable weapon like an M4, and even though the rifles are made in the United States, the materials used to make them must be imported.
There are elements in the USMC who want to see the capability of the M27 incorporated into the standard rifle. While the most straightforward way to accomplish this would be to simply procure large numbers of M27s, this is also the most expensive option. What would be much less expensive would be to find a way to upgrade existing M4 Carbines with components that would give them capability similar to the M27, and for a Corps with a very tight budget this seems like the most practical way forward.