Army Serious About Fielding 6.8 Caliber Round
“Right now, the feedback looks like we are going to a 6.8 caliber round,” Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley said recently.
The service has a list of its top six modernization priorities and “soldier lethality” is one of the items. The most high-profile program in that category is the squad automatic rifle. Army Secretary Mark Esper at the Association of the United States Army annual conference — while promising the service is speeding up the way it does acquisition — singled out the program as one that would see prototypes in the near future.
“The bottom line is that we are committed to a new rifle,” Milley told reporters.
The 6.8 round would replace the 5.56 NATO round, which would mean two types of ammo for rifles on the battlefield, at least initially, Milley suggested. The 6.8 mm round was first developed by Remington and Special Operations Command. It is more lethal and accurate than the old rounds and 10 percent lighter.
If Milley’s prediction is correct, it would be used in one of six rifles being developed for the squad automatic rifle competition by five contractors. The competitors are: AAI Corp.-Textron Systems; FN America LLC (with two rifles); General Dynamics-OTS Inc; PCP Tactical LLC; and Sig Sauer Inc.
The new rifle is apt to be expensive, so not every soldier will have it from day one, Milley said.
“It’s a very sophisticated weapon. It’s a very capable weapon. And it has an integrated sight system,” he said. It will also integrate into the soldier’s wearable information technology.
“Not surprisingly, with a weapon like that it’s probably pretty expensive. We expect it to be expensive,” he said.
The initial buy would be in the 100,000 range, he said. “We will prioritize those soldiers who are in close-quarters combat type duties such as infantry and armor, cavalry, rangers, Special Forces, combat engineers and maybe selected others in the active Guard and Reserve,” Milley said. Fielding to the remaining forces would spin out from there, he added.
Milley was clearly a fan of the technology.
“This weapon has an accurate range far in excess of any known existing military rifle today. It will fire at speeds that far exceed the velocity of bullets today,” he said. It will penetrate any known body armor or any expected to be developed in the next 25 years, he added.
He hoped to start testing the new weapons at Fort Benning, Georgia, in the summer of 2019.
He added: “We don’t want to speak too much about its technical capabilities because our adversaries watch these things very closely.”