U.S. Army and Marine Corps snipers soon will be armed with a new multi-caliber sniper rifle -- chosen by U.S. Special Operations Command -- that's designed to kill enemy personnel and pierce soft-skinned vehicles.
Both services have earmarked money in their proposed fiscal 2021 budgets to buy Barrett Firearms Manufacturing Inc.'s Multi-Role Adaptive Design Rifle (MRAD), a bolt-action weapon that can be converted to fire 7.62x51mm NATO, .300 Norma Magnum and .338 Norma Magnum ammunition.
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Following a U.S. Special Operations Command contract award of up to $49.9 million to Barrett in March 2019, the Army plans to spend about $10.1 million on MRAD rifles -- known as the Mk22, according to service budget documents and Program Executive Office Soldier officials.
"Our current plan is to place an order for 536 Mk22 systems in FY21 based on the current funding profile," said Alton Stewart, spokesman for PEO Soldier. "The MRAD Mk22 will replace the M107 sniper rifle and M2010 Enhanced Sniper Rifle systems."
The MRAD Mk22 will allow Army snipers to shoot out to 1,500 meters. That's 300 meters further than the M2010 Enhanced Sniper Rifle, chambered for .300 Winchester Magnum, according to Army budget documents.
The M2010 may be in the Army inventory for a while, though, since the service just awarded a $10 million contract to Sig Sauer Inc. to produce .300 Winchester Magnum ammunition.
When chambered for .338 Norma Magnum, the MRAD is potent enough to replace the Barrett M107 .50 caliber sniper rifle, which Army snipers have used since the early days of combat in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The Marine Corps has also chosen the MRAD for its Advanced Sniper Rifle (ASR) program.
"The Barrett MRAD is the solution for the ASR," Monique Randolph, spokeswoman for Marine Corps Systems Command, told Military.com. "The Marine Corps, along with the Army, is partnered with SOCOM on the ASR capability and is part of the SOCOM contract."
The Marine Corps plans to spend about $4 million to buy 250 MRAD rifles in its fiscal 2021 budget request, Randolph said.
The MRAD will replace the current Mk13 Mod 7 sniper rifle chambered for .300 Winchester Magnum, as well as all other "bolt action sniper rifles Marine Corps," according to Marine budget documents.
The MRAD features a quick-change barrel system that allows snipers to change barrels in the field with a single tool, according to Barrett's website.
It has a folding stock with an adjustable cheek piece, and the upper receiver is machined from 7000-series aluminum. The MRAD bolt rides in a unique enclosed polymer guide, which provides smooth, reliable operation even in harsh conditions, Barrett's website states.
-- Matthew Cox can be reached at email@example.com.