U.S. Army combat units have started receiving the first of thousands of new 7.62mm rifles designed to give infantry squads a potent new weapon.
Heckler & Koch Defense Inc. has delivered the first of up to 6,000 M110A1 Squad Designated Marksman Rifles, or SDMR, to the Army, according to a recent H&K news release.
Deliveries of the M110A1 are expected to continue through the middle of 2021, it adds.
The SDMR is a variant of the 7.62mm H&K G28/HK417. Army officials are fielding it as part of an interim effort to make squads more lethal ahead of the service's introduction of the Next-Generation Squad Weapon system, planned for 2023.
In 2017, Army leaders told Congress that the service's M855A1 5.56mm enhanced performance round will not penetrate modern enemy body armor, which served as springboard for development of the Next-Generation Squad Weapon, designed to fire a potent new 6.8mm projectile.
As a short-term fix, the Army selected the new M110A1 -- a weapon it originally chose in 2016 as its new Compact Semi-Automatic Sniper System -- to serve as the SDMR. It will be used with the service's new 7.62mm enhanced performance round to give squads more penetrating power to defeat enemy body armor, Army officials say.
The M110A1 will replace the Enhanced Battle Rifle 14 -- a modernized M14 equipped with an adjustable aluminum stock with pistol grip, scope and bipod legs -- used by infantry squads operating in Afghanistan and Iraq.
As part of the agreement with H&K, the rifles are manufactured in the company's facility in Oberndorf, Germany, and then shipped to the H&K-USA facility in Columbus, Georgia, according to the release.
H&K-USA workers then install scopes and mounts, as well as additional accessories from 12 other U.S.-based manufacturers, a process that has been increasingly challenging in the current restrictive environment of the COVID-19 outbreak, the release states.
"Obviously, the COVID-19 pandemic creates a very challenging business environment, but as an essential partner in the defense infrastructure of this country, we are 100 percent committed to delivering this essential product to our troops, while keeping our employees safe and healthy," H&K-USA President and COO Michael Holley said in the release.
-- Matthew Cox can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.