Last week we reported that the U.S. Army is accepting bids for a contract for 50,000 new rifles chambered in 7.62x51mm NATO (.308 Win.)
Now, according to this story from soldiersystems.net, the U.S. Marine Corps wants more than 50,000 of the the 5.56mm NATO M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle, designed by Heckler & Koch and based on their HK416 rifle.
The Corps has decided it wants to expand the use of the M27 within the rifle squad.
The story says the RFI was “released under the guise of ‘market research’ and was used to “create a a sole-source “Justification and Approval” in order to purchase the rifles directly from manufacturer H&K without going for an open solicitation.”
The story also says several companies that produce HK416 clones answered the RFI, but the USMC determined that only H&K was capable of producing the M27.
Last week, the Corps released a Notice of Intent to Sole Source saying it intends to solicit and negotiate with Heckler & Koch for up to 50,814 M27 Infantry Automatic Rifles (IAR).
H&K has a lot of guns to churn out of its factory in Germany. The company’s 417 is the favorite for the Army’s new rifle, since the G28 was recently adopted as the Compact Semi Auto Sniper System to serve in the Squad Designated Marksman role, for which over 6,000 rifles will be produced. The company has also won the French Army’s rifle program with the 416 and is developing the 433 for the German Bundeswehr G36 replacement—all on top of the 50,000 rifles for the Marines.
Some believe this is the first step in the Marines replacing the M4 with the M27. The biggest difference is the M4 can be set to semi-auto or 3-round burst with its fire selector, whereas the M27 can fire in semi-auto or full-auto. This allows it to serve a role similar to a light machine gun, while retaining the accuracy and range of a rifle. Opponents of using the M27 as a primary service rifle worry users will blow through ammo too quickly like they did with earlier iterations of the M16, which ultimately resulted in the three-round burst setting on the M16A4 and M4.
At its core, the M27 is the Heckler & Koch HK416, and has been replacing a portion of the belt-fed M249 SAW light machine guns currently used by automatic riflemen in Infantry and Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalions since about 2013. Marines have been using the M27 since about 2001.