A month after officially announcing the competition for a new, more powerful rifle, the US Army is scrapping plans to adopt the 7.62 mm Interim Combat Service Rifle.
The Army was looking for a better alternative to the 5.56 mm round and the M4/M16 rifle platform, the latter of which has been in service in various forms since the 1960s.
As the Army noted in its solicitation for the ICSR, there were concerns that the 5.56 mm round had seen its lethality reduced by improvements in body armour as well as by the range over which some firefights in recent conflicts have taken place.
Over the summer, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley told Congress that the M4’s M8551 Enhanced Performance Round could not penetrate body armour similar to that issued by the Army. Milley also said it was not necessary for every soldier to get a new rifle, just the infantry units most likely to be rapidly deployed.
The M4/M16 platform had also come in for criticism, in part because of concerns about jamming and overheating.
Discussion about a new Army rifle has been going since this spring. In mid-May, Retired Army Maj. Gen. Robert Scales — who called the M4 and M16 “terribly flawed” — and retired Army Lt. Gen. John Bednarek appeared to persuad some members of the Senate that a new rifle and round were needed.
No official reason was given, but The Firearms Blog cited sources saying the the plan was scrapped due to the lack of a pressing threat, poor written requirements, and little support from rank-and-file troops or in the Defence Department. In June 2013, the Army ended a competition to replace the M4 without selecting a winner.
While the Army is working on an ammunition-and-rifle combo between 5.56 mm and 7.62 mm calibre to replace the M4/M16 rifle platform, the ICSR will no longer be sought to stand in while that long-term plan goes on, Army Times said.
Most soldiers are equipped with M4s, M16s, or M27s firing 5.56 mm. Specialised troops, like snipers or machine-gunners, already fire 7.62 mm rounds or rounds of similar calibre.
The Marine Corps was also looking to swap out the M4 carried by most of its infantrymen with the M27, which was introduced in 2010 as a potential replacement for the M249 squad automatic weapon. The M27 is currently carried by the automatic rifleman on each Marine Corps infantry fire team.
“Most Marines like it, and so do I,” Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller said of the M27 this spring, saying the rifles have been “the most reliable, durable, and accurate weapons” carried by rifle squads.
Despite issues with the ISCR and the M4, the Army is poised to distribute its new side arm, the Sig Sauer P320, also called the XM17, this fall.
Members of the Army’s 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, along with some sailors, airmen, and Marines, tested the XM17 with the M4 and cold-weather gear at Fort Bragg earlier this month.
The Marine Corps said earlier this year that it was taking part in the Army’s selection process for the XM17 and plans to field a more compact version, called the XM18, among certain positions sometime in the future.
The Marine Corps did not immediately respond to Business Insider’s request for comment.
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