Gen. Jim Amos endorsed the infantry automatic rifle during his first town hall meeting with Marines held Nov. 3 aboard Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va.
During his presentation, Amos hinted strongly that he is in favor of putting the 5.56mm M27 infantry automatic rifle in the hands of Marines, indicating it was part of his initiative to lighten the Corps’ combat gear.
Plans call for the purchase of about 4,100 M27s to replace the M249 squad automatic weapon in some infantry formations. Tests are ongoing, and the weapon won’t likely see combat until next year, officials have said.
Amos told the audience he fired the auto rifle while visiting Weapons Training Battalion at Quantico, prompting laughs by acknowledging he’s not exactly your average trigger-puller.
“Now remember, I’m a fighter pilot, so I’m not even supposed to touch a weapon unless it’s a 2,000 pound bomb, I got that,” said Amos, who is the first naval aviator to head to Corps. “I went out there and this thing could — notice I didn’t say would — could replace the SAW. It weighs half as much. Now Marines, that is lightening the load, so we’re going to work real hard on this.”
In the last year, the Corps has narrowed its search for the weapon to a specific variant, Heckler & Koch’s HK416 IAR, and tested it at Twentynine Palms, Fort McCoy, Wis., and Camp Shelby, Miss.
The testing at Twentynine Palms enabled the Corps to see how it performed in a dusty environment, Brinkman said. Cold-weather testing was conducted at Fort McCoy last winter, and hot-weather testing was completed in June at Camp Shelby. The Marine Corps Operational Test & Evaluation Activity, based at Quantico, oversaw testing, but its report is not yet complete, Marine officials said. The agency independently tests gear that the Corps may field.
The Corps is still interested in potentially fielding a high-capacity magazine that would carry between 50 and 100 rounds, but is “not actively pursuing” it currently, Brinkman said.
“If we do pursue a high-capacity magazine, it will be critical that it does not have a negative impact on the reliability of the weapon,” he said.