New squad marksman rifles expected to be in Army hands early next year
By MARTIN EGNASH | STARS AND STRIPES Published: July 15, 2019
The U.S. Army has long sought to equip its marksmen with a more maneuverable precision rifle. The wait could be over as soon as next year.
Heckler and Koch Defense Inc., the German firearms manufacturing company, plans to deliver between 5,000 and 6,000 new Squad Designated Marksman Rifles in early 2020, the company said in a statement.
“The HK SDMR system will add much-needed capabilities to virtually every squad in the Army,” H&K-USA chief operating officer Michael Holley said, according to the statement Friday. “We are honored by this opportunity.”
The rifle, a modified 7.62 mm NATO G28, will be manufactured in Oberndorf, Germany, which is about an hour southwest of U.S. European Command headquarters in Stuttgart.
The weapons will start being delivered next year to the H&K-USA facility in Columbus, Ga., the statement said.
The G28 is a military version of the civilian semi-automatic MR308 competition rifle, which “provides a maximum effective range and a high first round hit probability up to 600 meters [and] will also allow suppressive fire against man size targets up to 800 meters,” according the H&K website.
The need for such a rifle was identified in the Army 2015 Small Arms Capabilities-Based Assessment, which stated that “squads must have an organic, precision-fire capability to engage select personnel targets from zero to 600 meters.”
In May 2017, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley told Senate Armed Services Committee members that the service’s current 5.56 mm M855A1 Enhanced Performance Round would not be able to punch through advanced armor plates. The M855A1 is optimized for use in weapons such as the M4 Carbine and M249 Squad Automatic Weapon.
Since then, the Army has tested several variants of precision rifles to fill that gap.
The new 7.62 mm squad-designated marksman rifles would “give infantry and other close-combat units a better chance of penetrating enemy body armor,” the H&K statement said.
However, the weapon may be a short-term solution. The Army is also developing the “Next Generation Squad Weapon,” or NGSW, which fires a 6.8 mm bullet at high velocities and at long range, officials have said.
The NGSW, a replacement for both the M4 and the M249, is slated to be fielded by 2022. The weapon’s higher chamber pressures are expected to result in better trajectory and effect on target, as well as the improved ability to penetrate body armor at longer ranges.
Soldiers of the 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, tested the Squad Designated Marksman Rifle at Fort Bliss, Texas, in January 2019. The SDMR, produced by Germany's Heckler & Koch, is designed to give shooters an increased range during combat while still maintaining close quarters capabilities.
BRIAN MICHELICHE/U.S. ARMY