7.62mm ICSR Replacing the M4? Yes – A Brief Review of What We Know About the Program

    Original caption: "A Scout Sniper Team Marksman, part of the Recon Platoon from Bravo Company, 2nd Battalion, 124th Infantry Regiment, 53rd Brigade Combat Team, Florida Army National Guard fires a M110 semi-automatic sniper system rifle at a 600 meter target during a live fire long range marksmanship training and qualification course at the Arta training range in Djibouti, Oct 14, 2015." The M110 SASS is a 7.62mm sniper rifle system, similar to many rifles that may compete in the ICSR competition. Image source: US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Gregory Brook. Public domain.

    Yes, the M4 Carbine will be replaced by a 7.62mm Interim Combat Service Rifle, and also no it won’t. Ah, I see I need to explain.

    This past weekend, I published an article reporting on the ICSR program’s recently released request for proposal (RFP), and there was some confusion regarding exactly what the program is, and the extent to which it will result in the replacement of M4 Carbines. Although the ICSR program is still clouded in secrecy, there are some things we do know about it. The first thing we can say is that the ICSR is intended to be a standard issue service rifle, not (just) a DMR or a gun for special forces. In this way, it is intended to replace the M4 as the standard combat weapon for US troops. However, it is not currently slated to replace all M4 carbines, just those being used by units deployed to combat zones.

    We know this because Chief of Staff of the Army General Mark Milley said so in his testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) back in May. In that testimony, he spoke about the Army fielding a new 7.62mm round that would be more effective against body armor, and he outlined fairly clearly how exactly this round would be fielded:

    It is 7.62, not 5.56, but not everybody necessarily needs – uh – this idea that the entire Army needs the same thing all the time is not necessarily true; there are some units, some infantry units that are much more highly likely to rapidly deploy than others, and conduct close quarters combat, that we would probably want to field them with a weapon – a better grade weapon – that can penetrate this body armor that we’re talking about.

    We can also see that the ICSR not be just a designated marksman’s rifle by looking at recent presentations made at NDIA. In PM Individual Weapons LtC Steve Power’s, we see that the Army’s requirement for interim designated marksman weapons is just 6,069 weapons (slide 7), far less than the 50,000 specified in the RFP. The ICSR is also listed as a separate weapons development project in PM Soldier Weapons Col. Stehle’s presentation, shown below:

    We see mention of an “Interim Carbine Directed Requirement” in Col. Travis Thompson’s (the TRADOC Capability Manager) presentation, in a separate section from the SDMR program:

    We also know from the RFP that the ICSR will be select-fire, not semiautomatic only. This is in keeping with it being a service rifle, not a DMR. The ICSR is not a special forces specific weapon, either, as those programs are typically handled through the PEO SOF Soldier office, not the PEO Soldier office. Also, SOCOM is pursuing its own program for a 6.5mm carbine, from the presentation of LtC. Mark Owens, Program Manager for PEO SOF Soldier.

    So, right now, it is pretty clear the ICSR program is looking for a new standard infantry weapon of some sort to replace the M4 – but not everywhere, only in some units. What it clearly is not is a new DMR, or a new SOF-only weapon.

    The RFP for ICSR is structured in such a way that it could easily change in the future, however. If the Army decided ICSR needed to be a DMR instead of a service rifle, they could scale back the order according to the rules of an IDIQ contract. Or, if they decided that every soldier in the Army needed an ICSR, they could extend the order (to a point).

    Nathaniel F

    Nathaniel is a history enthusiast and firearms hobbyist whose primary interest lies in military small arms technological developments beginning with the smokeless powder era. He can be reached via email at [email protected]