Go on any gun board and you’re sure to find someone lamenting the venerable 5.56mm round NATO forces currently use. They argue that the 5.56 round just doesn’t have enough punch to take down the bad guys, among other things ranging from somewhat sensible to outright bizarre.
A new solicitation from the U.S. Army for the Interim Combat Service Rifle is bound to give all those guys something to talk about for a while.
The Army has identified a potential gap in the capability of ground forces and infantry to penetrate body armor using existing ammunition. To address this operational need, the Army is looking for an Interim Combat Service Rifle (ICSR) that is capable of defeating emerging threats. The Government has a requirement to acquire a commercial 7.62mm ICSR to field with the M80A1 Enhanced Performance Round (EPR) to engage and defeat protected and unprotected threats. The ultimate objective of the program is to acquire and field a 7.62mm ICSR that will increase Soldier lethality.
The Government intends to award a maximum of eight (8) Other Transaction Agreements (OTAs), procuring seven (7) weapons from each Offeror for test and evaluation purposes. The Government reserves the right to award less than eight (8) OTAs or to make no OTA awards. Offerors may submit more than one (1) proposal, however, each proposal must be separate and distinct from one another. Each proposal shall include a bid sample, proposal and system safety assessment report. Once the test and evaluation is concluded, the Government may award a single follow-on Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) based contract for the production of up to 50,000 weapons. This estimate is subject to change.
The primary concern appears to be enemy troops wearing body armor similar in ballistic properties to that worn by U.S. troops.
Requirements for the rifle over and above the need for being chambered in 7.62 NATO include being capable of accepting a suppressor, select fire capable, accurate out to 600 meters, folding iron sites, and the means to mount accessories such as a laser and weapon-mounted night vision.
The 7.62 fans shouldn’t get too excited, however. The solicitation states that this contract is for “up to 50,000 weapons.”
In other words, this isn’t likely to be a replacement for the standard 5.56-chambered weapons any time soon. 50,000 rifles sound like a lot, but considering the size of ground combat forces within the United States Army, the number of rifles would barely amount to a drop in the bucket of what would be needed to equip all U.S. infantry forces with a new weapon.
Instead, it seems likely that this weapon, should it be adopted formally, will be mixed in across the combat units likely to encounter armored foes. Of course, that doesn’t preclude the Army asking for more weapons down the road, nor the other branches placing orders of their own.
The solicitation may bring up questions over just who the military expects to combat that would be armored, seeing as how ISIS doesn’t seem to be using much in the way of body armor. Frankly, it doesn’t matter since this solicitation will give gun buffs throughout the internet a new topic to debate for month on end.