After carrying the M16 or one of its cousins across the globe for more than half a century, soldiers could get a peek at a new prototype assault rifle that fires a larger round by 2020.
Army researchers are testing half a dozen ammunition variants in “intermediate calibers,” which falls between the current 7.62 mm and 5.56 mm rounds, to create a new light machine gun and inform the next-generation individual assault rifle/round combo.
The weapon designs being tested will be “unconventional,” officials said, and likely not one that is currently commercially available.
Some intermediate calibers being tested include the .260 Remington, 6.5 Creedmoor, .264 USA as well as other non-commercial intermediate calibers, including cased telescoped ammo, Army officials said.
If selected by senior leaders, the weapon could resolve a close-quarters weapons debate about calibers that critics say dates to the 1920s and has influenced military small arms ever since.
If successful, the new rifle and round combination would give troops a weapon they can carry with about the same number of rounds as the current 5.56 mm but with greater range and accuracy in their firepower — with little change in weight.
The new rifle would likely replace the M16/M4 platform, which has been in the hands of troops since the 1960s and undergone multiple modifications and upgrades.
Maj. Jason Bohannon, lethality branch chief at the Army’s Maneuver Center of Excellence at Fort Benning, Georgia, and Matt Walker, deputy director of the branch and a retired command sergeant major, spoke recently to Army Times about broad efforts in small arms weapons research and development.
Work on the new round began in recent years, Bohannon said, and much of the next steps in developing both the round and rifle will be driven by the Small Arms Ammunition Configuration...