The Army Wants An Everything-Rifle

BY Herschel Smith
11 months ago

Stars and Stripes:

The Army is hunting for a new universal assault rifle to arm infantrymen with a lighter, more powerful weapon as a potential replacement for systems ranging from carbines to light machine guns.

The Next Generation Squad Automatic Rifle would fill capability gaps at the infantry squad level, the Army said in a federal contract posting last week.

The planning is in the early stages and no formal contract has been awarded, but the Army’s solicitation for concepts is part of a broader push to modernize the force.

In July, defense contractors asked about the ultimate purpose of the new rifle, which was initially billed as a replacement for the M249 Squad Automatic Weapon, or SAW.

The Army answered that during the next two years, the government will decide whether a next-generation weapon should be able “to fulfill additional roles such as that of the squad designated marksman, medium machine gun, and the carbine,” according to the advisory posted on the government’s main contracting website.

The Army also has been at work developing a new cartridge to replace the 5.56mm round used by the M4 and M16. The aim is to develop ammunition that would be interchangeable with a next-generation weapon.

So the Army is saying, “We want a carbine that is also a light machine gun, capable of shooting any caliber, able to fill virtually any role we ask, with a larger bullet than 5.56mm, and oh, also serving as a designated marksman rifle for long distance shooting, even though we, the Army, have no such role or training as designated marksman.”  While they’re at it, let’s throw in ammunition that is just as light at the 5.56mm even though the bullet diameter is larger, so that women can carry the load.

I want … I want … I want … gimme gimme gimme … everything in one awesome package, right now, dammit!  Something tells me this isn’t going to go down well for the Army.


Comments

  1. On August 20, 2017 at 10:34 pm, The Wretched Dog said:

    Well, they could have this capability – if they (the Army Small Arms development community) were capable of properly articulating their requirements, and recognize that they want a common-caliber family, firing something heavier than the existing 5.56x45mm cartridge, without trying to have one design meet all four requirements: carbine, rifle, DM rifle, LAR (Light Automatic Rifle/SAW).

    It would be fairly simple to adopt an intermediate caliber (.277-.284cal or 6.5, 6.8 or 7mm) bullet, at twice the bullet weight of the current 5.56mm, 62-grain, green-tip ball round, in short, fat cases, that fit the existing M16/AR15 platform.

    With 14.5-inch carbine and 18- or 20-inch rifles;

    And have a long-barreled (20-inch minimum), DM version;

    And have a lighter and handier (than the bulky, heavy M249 SAW) “Light Automatic Rifle” for fire-team full-auto suppression – see the USMC M27 for starters.

    And the Army could also do all of this with a longer .277-.284 cartridge (to replace the 7.52x51mm NATO) for units or scenarios that need more punch at longer ranges, using the AR10 platform, with the same carbine, rifle, DM and LAR varients.

    Nothing is stopping the Army from simple, commercial fixes – except a lack of articulated vision and the incessant desire for “one-size-fits-all” solution.

    But you can’t have a weapon as light, short and handy as a carbine perform the tasks of precision distance shooting (in excess of 600m), or sustained full-auto fire suppression. The physics do not permit.

    But we will watch while the Army wastes million of dollars trying to achieve the impossible, when simple solutions are readily available.

  2. On August 22, 2017 at 3:52 pm, Mack said:

    The day will come when a 45 ACP identifies as an M-16.

    You, wait … you’ll see.

    Identity Politics for the inanimate.

  3. On January 11, 2018 at 12:26 am, Georgiaboy61 said:

    Re: “The Army Wants An Everything-Rifle”

    Any engineer worth his slide rule will tell you that the more-tightly-focused your design requirements are, the greater the likelihood of success in meeting them. The “everything” rifle will be dead-on-arrival for that reason alone.

    A well-designed tool is usually custom-made specifically for one or perhaps two primary tasks, which it performs well – leaving other tasks to other designs of tools. The screwdriver remains a screwdriver, while the hammer remains the hammer. A multi-tool will work in place of specialized tools – but at the (high) cost of efficiency and performance.

    The analogy applies to small arms. There are so many differing tasks and jobs required of small arms by the U.S. Army and Marine Corps that designing one platform to fill the needs of all of them is a fool’s errand. Why? Because the design trade-offs necessary to achieve such versatility will come at the expense of specialized performance. Anyone who has ever seen the outcome of something “designed by committee” knows what will happen.

    Back in the 1950s, when it came time to replace the M-1 Garand, the U.S. military and its ordnance specialists got seduced by the same siren song of having one weapon do everything for the soldier – close combat and CQB, medium range engagements, long-range precision shooting and sniping, submachine gun, assault rifle, squad automatic weapon, all of it!

    While the resultant design, the M-14, was adopted as the service rifle of the U.S. military – it was plagued from the start by the extensive demands made upon its designers.

    – Because the M-14 was to replace the BAR as the SAW, it had to be capable of select-fire and needed a barrel heavy-enough to withstand automatic fire. This made the weapon heavier than it should have been as a dedicated semi-automatic only infantry rifle.

    – Because the M-14 was required to function as a battle rifle and squad-automatic weapon, it had to employ a full-power rifle round capable of engaging enemy targets as far away as 1100 meters (the maximum range of the rifle’s iron sights). Chambered in the 7.62×51 NATO, the M-14 was precluded from being anything remotely resembling a replacement for the submachine gun. It was too heavy, too long, fired too powerful a cartridge, and fired from a closed (not open) bolt.

    – Although it operated in select-fire mode, the M-14 never made a satisfactory assault rifle, as its potent .308-caliber cartridge was simply too difficult for most men to handle on full-cyclic mode.

    – Since it lacked a quick-change barrel and was fed only from box magazines, the M-14 was never a true base-of-fire weapon or light machine-gun. Rather, it was an automatic rifle, like the BAR – the weapon it was intended to replace and modernize.

    – The M-14, being as large, long and heavy as it was, did not make an ideal weapon for close-quarters work, CQB or clearing houses. It’s hard-hitting round was ideal for penetrating cover, but could over-penetrate and endanger friendly forces if not used carefully. The lack of controllability on automatic fire meant that the M-14 could not adequate replace either the assault rifle or SMG as a close-quarters weapon.

    – The M-14 was also required to replace the M-1 .30-caliber carbine, but utterly failed to do so. It was too large and heavy, too long, lacked handiness, and fired too-potent a cartridge for use in a weapon as light as the typical M-1 carbine.

    What is truly miraculous is that – despite being weighed down with this ridiculous list of contradictory design requirements – the people making the new weapon actually managed to turn out a pretty decent battle rifle, what became the M-14. Notwithstanding that, however, the rifle came nowhere near to realizing all of the roles envisioned for it by Pentagon planners.

    One would think that an important lesson (or series of them) had been learned from the episode, but recently released U.S. Army RFPs for a new universal assault rifle shows that Big Green is still making the same errors it made sixty years ago.

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You are currently reading "The Army Wants An Everything-Rifle", entry #17561 on The Captain's Journal.

This article is filed under the category(s) Army,Firearms,Guns and was published August 20th, 2017 by Herschel Smith.

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