Marines Get New Infantry Automatic Rifle: Lose Firepower, Gain Accuracy

So, is this a trade up or a trade down? From the Marine Corps Times:

“For at least a decade, factions of the Marine Corps have pushed for replacement of the legendary 5.56mm M249 Squad Automatic Weapon in infantry fire teams.

Weighing more than 22 pounds with a 200-round drum, the belt-fed light machine gun slows down Marines while patrolling and maneuvering under fire, critics said. It isn’t accurate, it’s temperamental and takes too long to get working after jams, they added.

Beginning this year, the critics will get their way.

Commandant Gen. Jim Amos has approved the full fielding of the M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle, a sleek, 5.56mm weapon that will become the new standard for automatic riflemen. There will be one IAR in virtually every four-man fire team, with three per squad, 28 per company and almost 4,476 across the Corps.

“After a rigorous testing process, both in garrison and deployed environments, and in-depth consultation with weapons experts through the Corps, the commandant approved the fielding of the M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle,” said Maj. Joseph Plenzler, a spokesman for Amos. “The fielding of the IAR will significantly enhance the ability of our infantrymen to gain and maintain fire superiority, reduce their fighting load and provide them a more ergonomic and accurate weapons system that can keep up during the assault.”

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It’s a controversial change for the Corps that will affect tactics, techniques, procedures and training. Marine fire teams have been built around a 0311 infantry rifleman carrying a SAW since the 1980s, when the U.S. military adopted it to add automatic firepower to small units. Nine SAWs will be kept in each rifle company, but they’ll largely be in reserve, and used at commander’s discretion.

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The IAR is a variant of Heckler and Koch’s HK416 assault rifle, which is popular with special operators and frequently used with suppressors. It weighs 9.2 pounds loaded, less than half the weight of SAW, made by FN Herstal. It has an adjustable butt stock and runs on standard 30-round magazines, although the Corps also is exploring the possibility of a high-capacity magazine that would carry between 50 and 100 rounds.

In part because there is no quick-change barrel like the SAWs, the IAR has a sustained rate of 40 rounds per minute for 600 rounds, or 28 rounds per minute when the temperature is more than 100 degrees. That’s far less than the SAW’s sustained 85 rounds per minute, but program officials said the IAR offers more than enough benefits to make up for the lower rate of fire.

You can read the full story here.

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