NEWS

Was it actually the Marine Corps that helped delay the Army's 7.62 battle rifle program?

The commander of Program Executive Soldier today refuted recent media reports that the Army's senior leadership has killed a requirement to field a new 7.62mm Interim Service Combat Rifle capable of defeating enemy body armor.


"It is not dead. The decision has not been made," Brig. Gen. Brian Cummings (P) told Military.com.

Cummings's comments come a day after The FirearmBlog reported that the Interim Service Combat Rifle competition, which was launched in early August, has been cancelled.

Despite Cummings insistence, a source told Military.com that Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley has decided to cancel requirement, and ultimately the competition, but has not made yet made it official yet.

The Army identified a potential gap in the capability of ground forces and infantry to penetrate body armor using existing 7.62mm ammunition, according to the Aug. 4 solicitation.

A Special Forces soldier takes a rest during a patrol in Afghanistan. The Army is considering outfitting its front-line troops with a 7.62 battle rifle like this Mk17 SCAR-H. (Photo from US Army Special Operations Command)

The opening of the competition came just over two months after Milley revealed to Congress that the M4 Carbine's M855A1 Enhanced Performance Round cannot penetrate modern enemy body armor plates similar to the U.S. military-issue rifle plates such as the Enhanced Small Arms Protective Insert, or ESAPI.

Milley told lawmakers in late May that the Army does not believe that every soldier needs a 7.62mm rifle. These weapons would be reserved for the Army's most rapid-deployable infantry units.

The Army intended to purchase up to 50,000 new 7.62mm rifles to meet the requirement, according to the solicitation.

A soldier lines up a target during the final day of M110 Semi-Automatic Sniper System (SASS) qualifications at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson's Grezelka Range, July 10, 2013. (U.S. Air Force photo/Justin Connaher)

It's still unclear what changed; why the Army leadership decided to kill the effort.

It might have something to do with the U.S. Marine Corps' lack of interest in the requirement and that it has decided to go in the opposite direction. In August, the Corps announced its plans to purchase more than 50,000 additional M27 Infantry Automatic Rifles (IARs), which are chambered for 5.56mm.