The United States Marine Corps likes their M27 rifles. The select-fire 5.56 rifles based on the H&K 416 are something the service likes and they want more of them. While I haven’t gotten a chance to fire them, the couple of people I’ve spoken with who have loved the things.
However, it seems that’s not a good enough reason to buy more, according to Congress.
Congress is moving to slow the U.S. Marine Corps’ purchases of M27 Infantry Automatic Rifles, or IARs, in a new defense spending bill for the 2019 fiscal year. Lawmakers want to withhold 20 percent of the funding for the new guns until the service better explains its own future small arms plans and how they fit with a U.S. Army-led study that calls for standard infantry weapons in new calibers to respond to emerging threats, especially improved body armor.
The provisions are included in a final draft version of the proposed defense budget law, also known as the John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019, which the House of Representatives passed on July 26, 2018. It now heads to the Senate, where it already has support, and could be headed to President Donald Trump’s desk to become law early in August 2018.
The relevant sections demand a report on the “near-term and long-term modernization strategies for small arms weapon systems of the Marine Corps” before the Marines can spend all of the money they requested to buy additional M27s, according to Marine Corps Times. That same review must include information on how the rifles fit in with the Small Arms Ammunition Configuration Study, or SAAC, which the Army, in cooperation with all the other branches of the U.S. military, wrapped up in 2017.
The ammunition question looms particularly large over the Marine’s M27 purchase program. The rifles use the same 5.56x45mm cartridge that is standard across the U.S. military. The Corps first began issuing the weapon in 2011 as a substitute for the M249 Squad Automatic Weapon, but in 2016 began moving toward issuing it as a new standard infantry weapon across the board.
While my understanding of the SAAC study comes second- or third-hand, I do know that it supposedly calls for a transition into an “intermediate” round, meaning something beefier than the 5.56. In particular, something sufficient to defeat the kind of armor the military expects to encounter in the future.
I get that, of course.
I also get that as of right now they don’t see that threat on any current battlefield, as far as I’m aware. At this time, the SAAC may well be focused on phantoms more than actual threats.
That said, the Marine Corps did cooperate with the study, which means they were at least a part of the process to some degree. If they disagree with the study, then they should explain why they disagree with it. If their involvement was minuscule and nonsubstantive, then perhaps they see no reason to comply with an Army study, especially if it truly reflects what the Army feels it needs and not the Marine Corps might require.
Is this interservice rivalry, or something else? It’s going to be difficult to tell, though.