In April, the US Marine Corps announced an ambitious procurement programme to purchase 15,000 M27 Individual Automatic Rifles from Heckler & Koch. The contract, worth $30 million, was to begin to be fulfilled with funds from fiscal year 2019.
The Marine Corps has claimed that the M27 provides Marine Riflemen with increased lethality, however, Congress is unconvinced. In a press release published at the time of the contract’s initial announcement Chief Warrant Officer 5 Joel Schwendinger, Combat Development and Integration Gunner, said that the M27’s increased lethality had been identified during numerous exercises and experiments. Schwendinger explained that:
the M27 provides the Corps with the necessary increase in lethality. Unlike other infantry specialties that primarily fight with crew-served weapons such as mortars and machine guns, rifle platoons primarily fight with rifles, and the M27 has proven to be the best overall fighting rifle.
The Marine Corps Times, however, have reported that Congress is moving to limit funding for the Marine Corps’ new rifle. Members of the legislature want more information from Marine Corps’ Commandant General Robert B. Neller on the Corps’ ambitious small arms programs. According to sections from the upcoming defence spending bill for the 2019 fiscal year they want Neller to layout the “near-term and long-term modernization strategies for small arms weapon systems of the Marine Corps.”
Congress is concerned that the Corps’ future small arms program does not align with the US Army’s current push towards new ammunition development and new weapon systems like the Next Generation Squad Automatic Rifle, which has recently entered its next stage of development. The Marine Corps is said to be actively engaged with the Army on the project.
Congress have repeatedly heard concerns from both Army and Marine leaders that current ammunition is increasingly insufficient to meet challenges in the field such as body armourer proliferation and longer range demands. As a result members of Congress are wondering why the Marine Corps is seeking to adopt a new 5.56x45mm general issue rifle. Certainly, the Corps’ plan to deploy the rifle in a designated marksman role, as the M38, is increasingly questionable, especially after a leaked report that cast doubt on the plan.
As yet the Corps has not responded to the request for more information on their programmes and an explanation behind their decision to adopt the M27 more generally.