As the United States responds to the military resurgence of an increasingly belligerent Russia, the armed forces are looking at replacing the rifle that has been the backbone of the Army and Marines for the past 50 years.
The so-called “Next Generation Squad Weapon program,” would replace the current M4 and M16 rifles, according to Military Times.
Instead of firing a 5.6-millimeter bullet, the new weapon would fire a 6.8-millimeter round.
Army Chief of Staff. Gen. Mark Milley called the weapon “better than any weapon on earth today, by far,” and a “pretty impressive gun.”
Col. Geoffrey A. Norman said the new rifle could be deployed as early as 2022, and be used in conjunction with existing rifles by having two new weapons in every nine-person squad, Task and Purpose reported.
The goal of the weapons development program, he said, is to give soldiers a rifle “that fires a small bullet at the pressure equivalent to what a tank would fire.”
“The chamber pressure for the standard assault rifle is around 45 KSI (kilopound per square inch), but we’re looking for between 60 and 80 KSI … the chamber pressure when an M1 Abrams tank fires is on that order,” Norman said.
“We’re looking to reach out around 600 meters and have lethal effects even if the target is protected by body armor,” he said.
Norman said the rise of Russia is a factor in the development of a more lethal rifle.
“For the past 10 or 15 years, we’ve been really focused on the requirement of lethal effects against unprotected targets. Now we’re looking at near-peer threats like Russia and others,” he said.
New battlefields require new weapons, he said.
“We need to have lethal effects against protected targets and we need to have requirements for long-range lethality in places like Afghanistan, where you’re fighting from mountaintop to mountaintop over extended ranges,” he said.
Norman said current rifles do not have enough power to penetrate existing body armor, and that advances in technology will help soldiers hit their targets.
“We’re exploring several options to ensure that what the gun aims at, it actually hits,” Norman said.
“The system will adjust and potentially only fire when the muzzle will line up with its target. It will take into account atmospheric conditions, even automatically center the weapon using an internal system. We’re looking to get these capabilities ready as soon as possible.”
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