Judging from the comments there's quite a bit of interest -- and insider knowledge -- of the IAR competition.
I just want to set one thing straight: I wrote the earlier post mainly to get what I had out there and I caveated the whole deal with the fact that my reporting was incomplete.
Thanks to Krag who set me straight on whether the IAR was replacing all SAWs...it clearly is not but I didn't specify that in my post. And sorry Sven for getting the Singapore company wrong. My source said Ultimax and in my notes it looks like I wrote it as the name of the company, not the name of the gun.
What I decided to do was to go ahead and post the entire response on my questions about the program to SysCom (Marine Corps Systems Command). They would not grant me a phone interview, but that's not surprising given my long a sordid relationship with them (body armor recall). Maybe if they'd agreed to let me talk to a real person, there wouldn't have been this confusion (and delay).
Anyway, here's what Syscom told me:
The Infantry Automatic Rifle (IAR) marks the return of the automatic rifle to the Corps. It provides the Marine Fire Team and Rifle Squad the capability to achieve fire superiority through short term accurate, high volume, automatic fire to suppress targets and enable the remainder of the unit Fire Team to close with and destroy the enemy. Additionally, The IAR is the individual weapon of the Automatic Rifleman in the Fire Team and, as such, provides his means for offensive and defensive direct fire engagement. The IAR consists of an automatic rifle, designated optic, magazines, bipod, cleaning and maintenance equipment, and sling. The IAR includes attachment points for integration of the full range of currently available weapon accessories such as the Rifle Combat Optic (RCO), PEQ-2A, PAS-13, PVS-17, MWS Broomstick grip, and others.
The source documentation is the Initial Capabilities Document (ICD) for Infantry Automatic Rifle dated Jan. 21, 2005, that validates a requirement for an individual Marine operable, high volume of fire automatic rifle at the Infantry Fire Team level. The Approved Acquisition Objective is for 4,476 weapons to be fielded to the rifle squads within Marine Infantry Battalions and the scout teams within Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalions. There have been no weapons purchased and no contract(s) awarded during this phase.
The IAR will enhance the Automatic Rifleman's maneuverability and displacement speed, while providing him the ability to achieve fire superiority and suppress or destroy those targets of most immediate concern to the fire team. The IAR LAR shall provide accurate automatic or semi-automatic fires against point (550 meters) and area (800 meters) targets in all light, environmental, and terrain conditions. The IAR will be operated by a single Marine and employed from all doctrinal firing positions. Additionally, the IAR shall demonstrate improved portability, reliability, and maneuverability through constricted terrain and conditions over the current M249 SAW.
Analysis that pointed toward establishing this requirement is listed below:
a. Joint Service Small Arms Master Plan (JSSAMP), 2003. The JSSAMP provides the description of the Services' desire to evolve current small arms systems into the next generation of more capable and lighter weight systems.
b. U.S. Army Infantry Center LMG JCIDS Capabilities Base Assessment (CBA), Version 1.2, November 2004. Findings: There is a need to improve or replace the current M249 given the capability gaps that the current LMG displays.
c. The need for an Infantry Automatic Rifle was identified by experimentation conducted by 2d Battalion, 7th Marines, during August 2001.
d. The Ground Combat Element (GCE) Conference Report of Sept. 20, 2001 stated Phase I of the experiment was complete with results demonstrating the need for a more effective automatic rifle in the infantry squad.
e. US Army LWMG Analysis.
f. Joint Service Small Arms Individual Small Arms Analysis.
Hope that sheds some additional light on the IAR issue. I'll post more on this as the news comes in...