In a surprising turn of events given the recent public motions towards an all-M27 fleet, the United States Marine Corps has just released a new request for information (RFI), soliciting proposals from the industry for a whole new suite of infantry equipment, including rifles, upper receivers for existing weapons, optics, suppressors, and targets. The new RFI is very explicit as to what the industry can and/or should bring to the table as far as proposals. Below is replicated the “Infantry Rifle” segment of the RFI document, which is just one part out of five:
3. Infantry Rifle
The Marine Corps is interested in rifles that incorporate technologies that are applicable to current and future battlefields. The Marine Corps is interested in a rifle that is guided by the following specific requirements:
– Upgrade package (URG + fire control group) or complete rifle with enhanced M27 like capability and features
– Free floated handguard 13” for use with 14.5” or longer barrel, 9.5” for use with 10.3/10.5” barrel. Accepts current authorized attachments (i.e., PEQ15/16, lights, etc.). System maintains accuracy and precision through all positons and means of support (free floated) be it sling, barricade, sandbag, etc.
– 14.5” barrel option, with 24,000 round life with AB49 – 2 MOA precision threshold, 1 MOA precision objective for majority of barrel life (Mean radius) (Army Capability Based Assessment requirements).
– Barrel may include low profile gas block but may not use taper pin
– Installation when using a barrel cartridge (i.e., barrel with gas block and barrel nut preinstalled) should take no more than 10 minutes threshold, 5 minutes objective (2nd echelon maintenance)
– Bolt carrier group optimized for M855A1 use with Picatinny Durable Solid Lubricant coating or any similar variations thereof
– Rail must maintain rigidity and alignment (to within 10 MOA) with the rifle’s zeroed point of aim when external pressures (up to 20 pounds) are applied 11” forward of the receiver (accounting for various means of supporting the weapon and weight of existing attachments and aiming devices)
– Rail must include continuous 1913 Picatinny rail at the 12 o’clock position with no interruption from the receiver rail to the handguard rail (semi-monolithic). Must include anti rotation features, may integrate into upper receiver.
– Rail must have integral forward 1913 Picatinny rail sections at the 3, 6, and 9 o’clock of 2-3” in length. Remainder of rail shall be M-LOK (like on SURG and ASR) at 3, 6, and 9 o’clock. Other surfaces may include holes/cutouts for air circulation and weight reduction.
– Rail must be field strippable in a manner similar to the M27 with captured bolts
– The rail may include a steel, or 7075-T6 aluminum barrel nut, but it must be non indexing in nature
– Rail must accept heat resistant rail covers of a similar nature and material to those found the M27
– Ability to fire AB39, .264 USA, .260 Remington, M80A1, etc.
– Modular bolt/barrel/magazine & magazine insert conversion packages for caliber changes (compatibility with A059, AB49, AB57, Mk255 Mod 0, etc) and optimized for respective caliber, charge, burn rate, and pressure curve (barrel threads can be 1/2X28 or 5/8X24)
– Novel approaches to lightweight rifle and ammunition
– Ambidextrous bolt catch and non-reciprocating charging handle
– Reversible magazine release and selector
– Adjustable length of pull stock, integral storage for spare bolt and QD sling attachment points
– Upper receiver will arrive with modular rail mounted sling attachment point
– Pistol grip sized for a 5th-95th percentile Marine
– Handguard sized 11-13” consideration to accessory use (lights, lasers, etc)
– Minimum mass cycling components to create no higher G-load than unsuppressed M110 SASS when fired
– High use of corrosion resistant alloys, coatings or treatments
– System deliberately built to perform at optimal level while suppressed – must divert gasses away from the shooter’s eye
– Bolt and barrel life greater than 15,000 rounds with no more than 200 FPS velocity loss
– Entire system serviceable at no higher than 2nd echelon maintenance level
– Coating or surface treatment in coyote brown in order to not stand out visually in combat environment, and desired reduction in IR signature.
It is interesting to note that the “required characteristics” for the new rifle/upgrade package sound very similar to the features outlined in my recent post Why the M27 IAR is Not the Right Rifle for the Marine Corps. It seems reasonable to suggest then that such an upgrade, which would leapfrog the M27 in capability at reduced time and cost, is a fairly obvious solution to the problem of what the next USMC weapon should be. The only conspicuous absence in this list is anything regarding the trigger of the new weapon, suggesting that either existing triggers or ones already in the pipeline would be used for any future procurement.
Beyond the “required characteristics”, however are a set of “desired characteristics”, and it is here that things get interesting. This list includes everything from a brand new caliber (e.g., .264 USA) to caliber changes, to “novel lightweight ammunition” – the last possible referring to composite cased or cased telescoped ammunition. This set opens the door on this RFI to include not just 5.56mm upgrades to existing weapons or new 5.56mm rifles, but possibly entirely new and revolutionary weapons systems that themselves build upon the existing state of the art rather than overturning it completely.
New rifles and upgrade packages are not the only things the USMC is seeking, however. The RFI also includes requests for automated static and mobile targets, locking suppressor and muzzle device systems, and variable-magnification optics.
The RFI is open to any companies wishing to submit, but it should be noted that it is not a request for proposal (RFP) or an invitation to bid on a contract. At this stage, it is purely exploratory in nature. Those companies whose proposals are selected will be invited to demo their products at the Marksmanship Technology Demonstration 2017, a private event held concurrently with the Modern Day Marine conference.