Tactical Tailor

The 7.62mm Intermediate Combat Service Rifle Program Is Dead

GEN Milley

For two weeks now we’ve been told by multiple sources that the US Army’s effort to field a 7.62mm NATO Service Rifle has been placed on hold (that’s how the Army kills a program without actually cancelling it). This, after industry jumped through hoops to provide the Army with samples of a fully automatic rifle, based on US Army Chief of Staff, General Mark MIlley’s testimony on May 25th.  In front of the Senate Armed Services Committee, he stated that the there is a proliferation of inexpensive threat body armor and that they have a 7.62mm projectile to deal with it.

He said, “We recognize the 5.56mm round, there is a type of body armor it doesn’t penetrate. We have it as well. Adversarial states are selling it for $250.” He went on to say, “There’s a need, an operational need. We think we can do it relatively quickly,” and went on to say, “The key is not the rifle, it’s the bullet.” GEN Milley sated that they’ve done some experimentation at Ft Benning and they have a solution. When asked by Sen King if it would require a new rifle, GEN Milley responded, “It might, but probably not.” GEN Milley went on to explain that the “bullet can be chambered in various calibers, it can be modified to 5.56, 7.62.”

The Army’s answer to that was an RFI and then solicitation for a full auto 7.62mm Intermediate Combat Service Rifle which closed just weeks ago. Now, it’s dead on the vine. No word on how the Army will deal with the vendors and the weapons they submitted, or more importantly, the threat it identified before Congress.

There has been an internal struggle within the Army between the leadership and the Acquisition community over this and other directed requirements from the Army Staff at the Pentagon. The CSA and other senior leaders have issued orders to purchase specific capabilities and the Acquisition community has resisted. Another example of this phenomenon is the Directed Requirement for the USSOCOM Plate Carrier and Level IV armor plate from late last year which, despite full testing and fielding by SOCOM, is caught in a bureaucratic cycle of new testing and effort to copy the armor carrier.

However, in this case, the Acquisition community moved relatively quickly, but GEN Milley allegedly had a “squirrel!” moment during a recent visit to Fort Benning, where he was introduced to the Lightweight Small Arms Technology and its associated Telescoping Case technology. LSAT has been a science project since the 1980s. His fixation of this new shiny toy should stall out Army Service Rifle modernization for years, if not decades, giving Picatinny plenty of breathing room to work on their own agenda.

Sources say that the new path forward is to write a new requirement for a Next Generation Carbine, something that has long been a mid-term goal. However, GEN Milley says that he has a threat the Army must deal with in the now. How will the Army mitigate that threat if it doesn’t get the capability he told the SASC and the Army solicited industry to fulfill?

56 Responses to “The 7.62mm Intermediate Combat Service Rifle Program Is Dead”

  1. PNWTO says:

    Good, now maybe entities that have developmental/operational knowledge with .260 and .264 USA will step it up and we can move forward towards a good solution in both defeating armor and having a better service cartridge.

  2. Joe says:

    Wow, an intelligent and timely decision.

    Since we had money to burn on the ICSR, could we funnel that into the LSAT?

    How mature is LSAT at this point?

    I know it’s Level 7 or something, but what technical issues are standing in the way of adoption?

    Also, how far along is the carbine?

    • Other Joe says:

      TheFirearmsBlog did a very informative interview recently on this very subject.

      INTERVIEW with Kori Phillips, Program Officer for LSAT and CTSAS,

      http://www.thefirearmblog.com/blog/2017/03/25/interview-kori-phillips-program-officer-lsat-ctsas-part-3-development-6-5mm-ct/

    • Steven S says:

      “Since we had money to burn on the ICSR, could we funnel that into the LSAT?”

      It’s possible, but I don’t think the Army actually received funds for the ISCR before it was canceled. It was simply too early in the program.

      Another problem is that the CSA is stuck with an “immediate threat” he must deal with now (at least according to his previous comments). So funds may be tied up and redirected somewhere else to mitigate the threat. Why? The LSAT, while I support the program, has some hurdles to deal with. The main issue is the infrastructure change. It will take 4-6 years to get the industry to produce enough ammo for LSAT weapons, and that is if they get the ball rolling NOW.
      With all of my support

      “How mature is LSAT at this point?

      I know it’s Level 7 or something, but what technical issues are standing in the way of adoption?”

      Relative speaking, it’s quite mature, however, we still don’t know the exact cost of mass producing the ammo. (cost of the ammo itself and the machinery required to make it)

      “Also, how far along is the carbine?”

      This I’m not too sure. From what I have read, it seems like they are close to wrapping up their latest carbine design iteration under the current contract. Someone more informed should pipe in.

      • Steven S says:

        SSD, can we please have small windows of opportunity (like 3-5 mins) to edit our comments after submitting them. That way we can correct some errors we miss.

  3. Kris says:

    “Adversarial states are selling it for $250”

    Is it avalible on the commercial market then or is this the unit cost for Russia to field a plate?

  4. Other Joe says:

    Say after me, there is no immediate body armor threat that M80A1 can handle that the m855A1 can’t.

    The GEN has bad info, the very fact that this program is dead and they’re willing to wait proves this.

    Stalling the replacement of the entire rifle until there is something really worth upgrading to is a good thing.

    In the meantime, we can look at smart optics to vastly increase hit probably, changing the barrels of our m4s to 6.5 Grendel, and the SR-25’s to 6.5 Creedmoor.

  5. Strike-Hold says:

    So someone forgot to define and submit the sheep spec’s eh?

  6. Gerard says:

    Yes the Army has the 7.62 NATO round and a new rifle coming it’s been decided it’s…Never Mind…
    Keep using the 5.56 in desert and mountains…

    • Joglee says:

      We’re not going to be in Afghanistan forever.

      • Rick says:

        And a Soldier who cant currently hit anything at 200m with an M4 wont magically start dropping dudes at 450m once he is issued a 7.62 gun.

        Rick

      • d says:

        We’re apparently not leaving any time soon either.

        But 5.56 is just fine in Afghanistan,particularly when 7.62 machine guns support rifleman (as per doctrine) and mortars, arty, and CAS will still be the decisive assets.

      • Gerard says:

        Yes We Are going to be in Afganistan Forever…

    • Seans says:

      5.56 is plenty fine for Afghanistan, if we just fight smartly and use the other tools in the toolbox. 7.62 is a absolute waste for the vast majority of the army.

  7. Mick says:

    How will the Army mitigate that threat if it doesn’t get the capability he told the SASC and the Army solicited industry to fulfill?

    Maybe issue more M110/CSASS?

    I don’t konw, but this is the type of news/analysis combo where Soldier Systems really shines… keep following up with your reporting!

  8. AbnMedOps says:

    AR-10: The rifle that almost was. And almost was. And almost was…

    • Kirk says:

      Considering that the AR-10 is basically the 7.62mm version of the AR-15, and is mechanically identical, for all intents and purposes…?

      I’d say it’s more like “AR-10: The Rifle that is, has been, and likely will be for a long while yet…”.

      The basic problem here is not the rifle; it’s the damn cartridges we’ve selected. 7.62mm NATO is not a good cartridge for a select-fire individual weapon. Period. Nor is it an ideal cartridge for an MG in the squad or platoon support role. 5.56mm? I feel like it’s a bit too small, but I don’t have the quantified data to back that feeling up. So, to be honest, for the way we’ve been fighting since I was a private soldier, the way I feel is that the 5.56mm could use a bit more “oomph”, and that the 7.62mm sure as hell could use more power as an MG cartridge.

      Had someone put me in charge of things, back when? I’d have strongly advocated for a somewhat smaller version of the old 6.5X55 Swedish, perhaps 6.45X45, for the individual weapon, and a bit more powerful version of the Swedish 8X63 MG cartridge for platoon support fires, and supplemental as-needed fire support in the squads.

      I really do not think that there is a good “single-caliber” solution for things, considering the way we fight. Dual-caliber systems are what we’ve wound up going to, every time someone has worked this stuff out in the real world. Germans in WWII? Yeah; 7.92X33 Kurz worked well in individual weapons, but they still had to have the full-house 7.92X57 in the MG. Soviets? Wound up doing the same damn thing with the 7.62X39/7.62X54R. And, by no accident, that’s what we wound up doing with the 5.56X45/7.62X51 pairing in our own fleet of weapons. Your MG cartridge needs to be full-power; individual weapons need their own lower-powered solution, in order for one man to be able to handle them on full-auto and deliver at least somewhat useful fires. As well, there is the weight issue.

  9. JM Gavin says:

    A little over a year ago, some Army General Officer complained:

    “We are trying to figure out a way to speed up the acquisition system, Some of these systems take multiple years, some of them decades to develop.”…the testing — I got a briefing the other day — the testing for this pistol is two years. Two years to test technology that we know exists. You give me $17 million on the credit card, I’ll call Cabela’s tonight, and I’ll outfit every soldier, sailor, airman, and Marine with a pistol and I’ll get a discount on it for bulk buys.”

    I think GEN Milley should find that guy, see what he thinks about killing programs that are oriented toward COTS solutions, in favor of good ideas that are not yet in production.

    • Steven S says:

      “I think GEN Milley should find that guy, see what he thinks about killing programs that are oriented toward COTS solutions, in favor of good ideas that are not yet in production.”

      I’m glad they killed the ISCR as drafted, it would be a step backward and delay our withdrawal from 7.62 for at least a decade.

      Also, while I’m glad he is looking into making LSAT a priority program. I’ll admit, it won’t provide a quick (relative speaking) solution to this “immediate need” he stated.

  10. Joglee says:

    Good.

    No one wants to carry a up to 12lb rifle with a combat load of 210 rounds that weighs 14lbs.

    It was a stupid idea from the get go.

  11. SN says:

    Typical,” senior leaders” run from brief to brief and don’t seem to remember one brief or decision from another.

  12. Will Rodriguez says:

    Thank goodness someone put a stake through this vampire’s heart.

    It was a total waste. Want to change calibers? Change calibers and select the rifle to launch it.

    Scheduling the research for the next caliber to the next decade while simultaneously fielding an “intermediate” rifle in a caliber we left partly due to weight is madness.

    (Not to mention we are constantly “talking” about lightening the load.)

  13. 92FH7 says:

    I was just a POG so take my opinion for what it is. I was happy for the ISCR.

    I served on and off an FOB and only the infantry doing raids used the 249. At other times the BDE preferred the 240.

    Regurgitating other people’s arguments: the current barrel twist eliminated a lot of the benefits of the .223.

    Now if the Army uses the “savings” for a completely new polymer telescopic round then great. But if we’re continuing to use a gas powered 5.56 round let’s objectively see if the new 5.56 round does anything better in combat and if not let’s move forward. I admit the new round wasn’t given time with the ISCR being announced but it’s the direction I personally wanted the Army to move in.

    • Surly Old Armorer says:

      The change to 1 in 7″ twist wasn’t the problem.

      The problem was a poorly-designed projectile that was optimized for the purpose of poking holes in metal plates at long ranges, rather than making great big holes in meat at real-world combat ranges.

      M193 still kills just fine. Out of a 1 in 12″ or a 1 in 7″ barrel.

      The M855A1 is going to turn out to be a mistake. It runs at much higher pressures than previous loads, which means more stress on bolt lugs and higher bolt group velocities — already a problem in the over-gassed M4 and M4A1 — so lower reliability and higher rates of component failure.

      We need to pick a cartridge based on terminal performance and then design the weapon around that. The AR platform is a good one, and there is no need to throw out decades of institutional knowledge in shooting and fixing them.

  14. seans says:

    What are you talking about the current barrel twist negates the benefits of 5.56/.223? And who is suggesting the current barrel twist of 1 in 7 is a issue. Please tell me how MK318, MK262, M855A1, or 70gr are abilities are negated by a 1 in 7 twist.

  15. TKS says:

    The real immediate threat is the Aquisition Community. From first hand experience at NAVAIR, their agenda is not the war fighters From one “truthful” engineer, “I don’t get rewarded for producing good flight clothing… I get rewarded and promoted for zeroing out my research budget… for letting contracts in priority Congressional districts…even if we develop the clothing and gear you want there is a good chance the middle managers will cancel or change it…it is all about politics….”. When I refused to OK a clothing solution I was told, “We’ll just wait until you PCS” and they did just that!

    An Aquisition Department that is not rewarded for good products the war Fighter needs should be the first casualty. Alas, the bureaucracy and entrenched GS workers will take either a Soviet style blood bath or decades to correct.

    • Surly Old Armorer says:

      Spot on.

      We needed a good cheap simple handheld radio before we went into Afghanistan and Iraq. Something about the size of an M16 magazine that a fire team leader could fit into a pocket and use to talk to his squad and platoon leaders.

      We were using privately-purchased crap blister-pack Motorola Talkarbouts then. Soldiers are still using them today.

      The Acquisition Community gave us “solutions” that were too large, too heavy, used unique batteries, were too laden-down with unneeded capabilities to be easily-used by a 19 year old SPC on the battlefield… And so expensive and fragile that they ended up sitting in a cage in the supply room rather than being used for necessary field training.

      Same issue with GPS receivers. The PLGR sucked. The DAGR sucked. Troops continue to buy their own COTS units in order to have a GPS receiver that is actually useful.

      • SSD says:

        And those radios are quite vulnerable to EW. Likewise, commercial GPS receivers have limitations and are vulnerable to selective availability if we turn it on.

        We field mil-spec systems for a reason. Unfortunately, the acquisition system is too slow to keep pace with commercial technology.

  16. Gerard says:

    Senator John Kerry has spoken out on this controversy and said ‘I was for the 7.62 rifle before I was against it’

  17. Don M says:

    Just add shaped charges to the 5.56×55. Problem solved.

  18. “However, GEN Milley says that he has a threat the Army must deal with in the now. How will the Army mitigate that threat if it doesn’t get the capability he told the SASC and the Army solicited industry to fulfill?”

    Frankly, Milley’s just wrong. I bet if you check some more with your sources, they’ll say pretty much the same thing. The body armor threat isn’t as pressing as Milley has made it out to be, and switching to 7.62mm isn’t the right answer. Heck, Milley himself says the new round (probably ADVAP) is scalable to 5.56mm…

    • SSD says:

      GEN Milley made the case for this threat in front of the SASC and then got the ACQ community to issue a solicitation. If they don’t buy the weapon he said he needs to deal with that threat, he has some explaining to do.

      • Joglee says:

        Doesn’t the end of the ICSR pretty much spell, You’re not getting the weapon he needs to deal with the threat he said we had to deal with.

  19. Kirk says:

    I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Tell me how you intend to fight, and then I’ll tell you what weapons you need to procure.

    The disconnect here, more than anything else, is that we’re not actually laying out how these damn things are supposed to be working within the tactical framework we’re intending to use. We’re backing into the problem by first procuring/deploying the weapons, and then figuring out how the hell we’re gonna use them.

    Fix the systemic problems of not working this shit out in theory first, and then going to procurement, and most of this issue goes the hell away.

    If you don’t get what I’m saying here, take a look at the Swiss. When the Swiss designed and procured the StG-57 (and, if that thing’s a friggin’ sturmgewehr, I’m a damn flamingo…), their doctrine and tactical intent for how they meant to fight was that they’d withdraw into the mountains, cede the lowlands and cities, and then attrit the enemy to death via long-range fires with what amounted to a mass of light machine guns cum individual weapons in the hands of their infantry that would enable them to deliver mass volumes of deadly fire out to the range of their standard full-power cartridge.

    Given how they meant to fight, the StG-57 was a near-perfect example of designing and procuring an individual weapon to match doctrine and tactical intent. Now, look at the StG-90, which is a much more conventional assault rifle design–The Swiss went to that rifle after they also made the decision to change their doctrine and tactics, moving away from the idea of withdrawing into the “mountain fortress”. Since they’d decided to defend the lowlands and cities, well… The rifle had to change. And, it did.

    You’re gonna look long and hard at the US military for a similar set of cases where we’ve worked out what the hell we’re going to do, tactically, and then gone into the design and procurement stages. Case in point–M14. Part of the Army knew from WWII combat that the nature of war had changed, and that we needed an intermediate cartridge. What did the system hand the troops? A rifle which, to be quite honest, was probably designed to be the ultimate National Match competitor more than a combat weapon. The mismatch between how we would fight and the weapon we’d use to do it with was so extreme that we basically abandoned a then-new system, the M14, put it into storage, and then pulled what became the standard for NATO out of our ass, the M16 and the 5.56mm. It’s a freakin’ miracle that that chain of misadventures has worked out as well as it has, but there you are: God apparently looks out for drunks, fools, and the US Army–At least, when it comes to weapons procurements.

    I think we really, really need to sit down and do some careful thinking about just what it is we’re actually doing in combat, how we intend to fight with the weapons we need to support that optimally, and only then start talking about what the hell to develop and buy. I can see several use-cases where a 7.62mm individual weapon would be the ideal solution, but those cases aren’t how we actually train and fight. Were we doing like the Swiss planned to do in the late 1940s through the 1980s, maybe an AR-10 class of weapon would be the best solution.

    However, that ain’t how we fight, now is it?

    Doctrine, tactical intent, and operational plans need to be decided first. Only then do you start designing and buying the weapons.

  20. DAN III says:

    ALCON,

    Good riddance to a bad idea (7.62 × 51).

    After reading all the comments here there is nothing I can add other than to increase 5.56mm performance via bullet technology. Make the MK 262, 77 grain round standard issue or even consider the Barnes 85 grain bullet. Both work well in 1/7 twist barrels.

    • SSD says:

      Good or bad idea, it was an idea, and it would have given the Army a platform to transition to a new intermediate caliber much easier than will now be the case. it would’ve also provided the Army a capability that it says it lacked.

      Now, the Army is going to get nothing. There’s a renewed fixation on LSAT and its associated telescoping case round. Neither are ready for prime time.

      The Army will once again will insist upon a “Leap ahead” rifle. You didn’t get a new carbine a few years ago because nothing entered in IC offered that leap ahead that the Army wants. No matter that Summer all of the candidates outperformed the M4 baseline.

      Despite over a decade of improvements to the AR platform in the commercial market, the Army has done a poor job of capitalizing upon that work. It just recently decided to fully field the M4 A1, a rifle I carried in the 1990s. The technology in it is just as old.

      The Army had not planned to search for a new rifle until the 2020s. Despite telling Congress that it is incapable of defeating enemy body armor with the systems currently in place, I would not expect a new rifle until that time. This was their chance to do something, anything really, and they blew it, once again.

      • DAN III says:

        SSD,

        Procurement ideas, good or bad, cost the taxpayer billions of dollars. More often or not, money flushed down the toilet of DoD waste.

        Myself, I see nothing wrong with maintaining the M16/M4/M4a1 platform for another 50 years. Improved ammunition and a topic often ignored, improved optics (at minimum 1-6x variable scope), would increase the weapon’s lethality and effectiveness. And….sustain our current 5.56mm weapons for 20 years, minimum.

        Remember. It is not about equipment performance. It is about more contracts for the military-industrial complex.

        • SSD says:

          You can squeeze so much blood from a rock. At some point you’ve got to move to something better.

          You could apply your line of thinking to any system. Imagine if we hadn’t transitioned from the M60 to the M240.

          • DAN III says:

            SSD,

            I’d like to counter your last remark. However, I think you have better things to do than discuss with me, pros/cons of this controversy, given the venue of the discussion. Too bad we can’t discuss this face-to-face. Would be very interesting to compare notes.

            Thanks for entertaining my remarks. Very enjoyable.

  21. bobcat says:

    the idea of a 7.62 general issue rifle was stupid to begin with. nobody that has paid attention to the needs of soldiers this century would consider a round that penetrates less, is less accurate, and weighs more than standard issue 5.56mm to be of any use to combat soldiers.