The US Army has released a solicitation for a new 7.62mm infantry rifle to replace the M4. The Interim Combat Service Rifle program, known to be in the works since April of this year, would replace M4 Carbines in use with combat units with a new weapon in the 7.62x51mm caliber. The new solicitation requires companies to submit 7 weapons plus ancillaries for testing, and includes the promise of up to 8 Other Transaction Agreements (OTAs, non-contract transactions), leading to the eventual selection of 1 weapon for a contract of 50,000 units.
The primary justification for the ICSR program are improved ceramic body armors that are resistant to existing forms of small arms ammunition. The logic goes that the Army’s new 5.56mm M855A1 round cannot penetrate these new armors, and therefore the service must switch to a new round. However, this is misleading, as current 7.62mm M80A1 is incapable of penetrating these body armors either – and specialty tungsten cored ammunition in both 5.56mm and 7.62mm calibers are capable of penetrating armor of this type. The US Army seems to be banking on its yet-undescribed XM1158 ADVAP round to bridge this gap – however Chief Milley himself admitted in testimony to Congress that the ADVAP’s design could be applied to either 7.62mm or 5.56mm ammunition.
These facts leave us with very little justification for the move to 7.62mm. It’s difficult to ignore the picture that a move towards a larger caliber infantry rifle has been lobbied for by manufacturers for over a decade, as it would give whoever won a toehold on a highly lucrative exclusive contract. Sadly, all this program will do is take a load off Chief Milley’s back, and put it on the backs of our troops. One wonders if General Milley is willing to write to families of the dead when ICSR-equipped units run dry of ammunition and are overrun by 5.45mm-armed foes.
Thanks to James for the tip… I think?