The US Marine Corps is interested in the Army’s Compact Semi-Automatic Sniper System (CSASS). Chambered in the longer ranged 7.62x51mm round, the CSASS has the edge over the Corps’ recently fielded M38 adaptation of the M27 IAR.
While other outlets have suggested the Army’s Heckler & Koch-built M110A1 might be selected to replace the venerable M40 sniper rifle, there is no way the Corps would replace a precision bolt action rifle with a semi-automatic rifle. Far more likely is that the new M110A1s will supplement the 7.62x51mm semi-automatic marksmen rifles already in service.
The Marine Corps’ interest in the CSASS became apparent after the publishing of the Fiscal Year 2019 Budget Estimates Justification Book for the United States Marine Corps procurement. The justification book has the CSASS as a line item, justifying its procurement, saying:
The Compact Semi-Automatic Sniper System (CSASS) will replace the M110 with enhanced shooter ergonomics and increased operational availability time. The lighter, more capable rifle will improve the sniper’s ability to rapidly engage multiple, moving targets
The CSASS rifles are not cheap, with the Corps’ order for 116 rifles costing totaling just under $1 million, with a per rifle cost of $8,594.83. At the same time, MARSOC has just awarded Knight’s Armament a $5 million, 5-year contract to continue to supply support and spares for MARSOC’s M110K1 SASS rifles. With these new rifles costing so much, it may indicate they will be destined for elements of MARSOC or the specialist elements of the Fleet Marine Force. This is certainly supported by the Procurement Contracting Officer for the acquisition being based at Special Operations Command in Tampa.
The new CSASS rifles, however, are definitely not destined to replace the M40A6, instead, these will be augmented by the Mk 13 Mod 7, another sniper rifle acquisition announced by the 2019 budget justification book. A Marine Corps Systems Command spokesperson confirmed to Task & Purpose that while the rifle won’t be fielded as a Squad Designated Marksman Rifle the “decision on what billets and units the weapon will be fielded to has not been finalized.”
According to the budget justification book the contract will be awarded in February 2019 and delivery will be anticipated in May 2019. The relatively small order is likely for evaluation and to supplement the Mk 11 Mod 2s (the USMC’s equivalent to the Army’s earlier M110 SASS) currently in service.
Fiscal Year 2019 Budget Estimates Justification Book for the United States Marine Corps Procurement Vol.1, Feb. 2018, (source)