Gunner Eby is at it again.
A man who holds more knowledge about small arms (and crew served weapons) in the tip of his pinky finger than most "experts" will learn in a lifetime, Chief Warrant Officer 5 Jeff Eby had one of his usual "couldn't care less what people think" conversations with my alma mater, Marine Corps Times, which ran with a story from him saying that H&K had won the competition for the Corps' Infantry Automatic Rifle.
Our friends at Soldier Systems piled on, saying they'd heard that shooters actually liked one of the Colt versions tested rather than the FN or HK ones.
I love Gunner Eby and have worked with him on stories in the past. He's a treasure for the Corps as an institution and a boon for reporters trying to cover it. He's a CWO5, so he's safely in place and couldn't care less what his commanders think about who he talks to or what he says. But he's an advisor, not the final decisionmaker.
So Syscom wrote me back a vaguely-worded email response to a query about all this, seemingly denying that the service had made a final decision on the IAR and stating only that the Corps had ordered "24 weapons" from an "existing contract" that was let back in December '08. That would most likely be the original contract to Colt, FN and HK for the IAR downselectees. They have not answered my follow up questions on which weapons (make and model) and whether, definitively, they have or have not decided on an IAR winner.
You could ask them yourself, maybe you'll have better luck.
This vagueness could also stem from the service's internal debate over whether to even go through with the IAR program. Loud voices within the Corps and the joint community argue against limiting a SAW gunner to 30 rounds, despite the weight boon from a rifle-style machine gun. Syscom seems less than enthusiastic about the program from the start, but one shouldn't read their incomprehensible responses (or total lack thereof) to questions about this program as emotional.
UPDATE: Just got an email from Syscom stating that the order was for 24 more HK 416s and that the Marine Corps is "still testing the IAR" whatever that means.-- Christian