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Army Chief Talks Plan for the Service's Next Battle Rifle

A 101st Airborne Division soldier fires an M4 carbine during a live-fire range training May 29, 2015, in eastern Afghanistan. Photo: U.S. Army.
A 101st Airborne Division soldier fires an M4 carbine during a live-fire range training May 29, 2015, in eastern Afghanistan. Photo: U.S. Army.

Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley on Wednesday offered a few more details about his plan to equip combat units with a new rifle capable of delivering up to 10 times the lethality of the service's current infantry weapon.

Milley first mentioned his vision for the service's future individual combat weapon in October at AUSA 2017.

Speaking at a Jan. 17 Association of the United States Army breakfast, he again said the service is looking at a promising technology, capable of outperforming the current M4 carbine.

"We have a good rifle now; it's a capable rifle and it's easily the match of any other rifle around the world," Milley said. "But we have the possibility of developing a small arm for infantry forces and cavalry forces ... that can reach out to much greater ranges than [current weapons] with much greater impact on lethality and with much greater accuracy."

Milley did not name the system but the more he spoke, the more it sounded like he was talking about Textron Systems' new Intermediate Case-Telescoped Carbine, chambered for 6.5mm.

The working prototype evolved out Textron's light and medium machine guns that fire 5.56mm and 7.62mm case-telescoped ammunition developed under the Lightweight Small Arms Technology program.

Over the last decade, the Army has invested millions in the development of the program, which has been rebranded to Textron's Case-Telescoped Weapons and Ammunition.

Textron's cased-telescoped ammunition relies on a plastic case rather than a brass one to hold the propellant and the projectile, like a conventional shotgun shell.

"The hinge here is the weapon's operating system and the type of ammunition used," Milley said.

The 6.5mm case-telescoped ammunition weighs 35 percent less and offers 30 percent more lethality than 7.62mm x 51mm brass ammunition, a much more potent round than the M4 carbine's 5.56mm ammunition, Textron officials maintain.

Textron officials say they are using a low-drag "representative" 6.5mm bullet, while U.S. Army Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center, or ARDEC, is developing the actual projectile. Textron officials say the new round retains more energy at 1,200 meters than the M80A1.

The Army has conducted research and testing with industry partners at Fort Benning, Georgia -- home of the Maneuver Warfare Center of Excellence -- but Milley would not give a specific timeline on further development and possible fielding.

"It is an excellent system; they have done some proof of principles on it," he said. "It is real. It is not fantasy, and industry is moving out quickly. And we expect with appropriate funding we should be able to have this particular weapon in the not-too-distant future."

-- Matthew Cox can be reached at matthew.cox@military.com.

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