The Army’s Powerful New 7.62mm Service Rifle Is Officially Dead

Gear
Photo via DoD

The Army has officially canceled its search for an off-the-shelf 7.62mm Interim Combat Service Rifle (ICSR) meant to replace the standard-issue M4 carbine — a major setback in the branch’s search for a new infantry rifle to augment soldier lethality.


Army Contracting Command announced the cancellation of the ICSR program on Nov. 28, citing a “reprioritization” of funding for the commercially made service rifle to the Next Generation Squad Weapon (NGSW) as a replacement for both the M4 and M249 Squad Automatic Weapon and “a long-term solution to meet the identified capability gap instead of the ICSR, which was an interim solution.” The announcement did not disclose the scope of the funds involved, and PEO Soldier and U.S. Army Contracting Command did not immediately respond to inquiries from Task & Purpose.

The saga of the ICSR has been a turbulent one. In May, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley told lawmakers that the current 5.56 mm rounds chambered in the M4 and M16 assault rifles ubiquitous among infantry troops (namely the M855A1 Enhanced Performance Round) cannot penetrate modern enemy body armor; the same month, he told Senate Armed Services Committee members that Maneuver Center of Excellence officials at Fort Benning, Georgia, had engineered a new 7.62mm round capable of defeating plates similar to U.S. military-issue Enhanced Small Arms Protective Inserts.

Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Daniel Allyn translated Milley’s testimony into a directed requirement for a new 7.62 mm rifle. Shortly after his appearance before SASC, the Army issued a request for information to “identify sources for a combat rifle system” that could deliver up to 50,000 weapons over a truncated timeline; in August, the branch issued a formal solicitation with a simple objective: “to acquire and field a 7.62mm ICSR that will increase soldier lethality.”

On paper, the ICSR looked like a sweet little rifle upgrade. The Army’s original RFI detailed needs for a rifle platform with either a 16 or 20-inch barrel with collapsible buttstock, a 20 to 30-round magazine in support of the standard 210 loadout, noise and flash suppression, compatibility with the Family of Weapons Sights-Individual system that connects rifle sites to a soldier's night-vision goggle, a standard Picatinny rail system for optics, and other accessories. Had the Army moved forward with the program, the ICSR would’ve chambered either the new M80A1 or XM1158 Advanced Armor Penetrating rounds.

Related: T&P;'s Coverage Of The Army's Interim Combat Service Rifle Program »

Unfortunately, the cancellation of the ICSR has been rumored for months: Military sources told The Firearm Blog on Sept. 20 that the program had become subject to a “massive review of U.S. Army small arms programs.” That review coincided with a three-month continuing resolution on the federal budget in Congress that Secretary of Defense James Mattis, in a Sept. 8 letter to Sen. John McCain obtained by Defense News, warned would jeopardize the ICSR effort along with 17 other Army programs. While the Army’s 7.62mm M110A1 Compact Semi-Automatic Sniper System program is still in the works, the ICSR simply wasn’t as lucky.

While PEO soldier program executive officer Army Brig. Gen. Brian Cummings in early October rebutted cancellation rumors, telling Military.com that the ICSR program “is not dead” and a decision “[had] not been made.” But sources told Military.com that Milley had already opted to ditch the requirement detailed by Allyn in May and formally established in the August solicitation. 

At the same time, the ICSR’s demise was always meant to be, y’know, “interim.” In an Oct. 3 update on the Army’s Modular Handgun System, Cummings noted that the “long-term way ahead” for the branch’s focus on lethality was always the NGSW. And Cummings hinted that if any program would get the axe, it would be the ICSR: of the two Army programs focused on “[getting] a 7.62 inside the squad,” he said, the squad-designated marksman role addressed by the CSASS sniper rifle trumps the ICSR as a equipping priority.

Photo via Heckler & Koch

The Heckler & Koch M110A1 7.62mm semi-automatic sniper rifle selected for the Army’s Compact Semi-Automatic Sniper System (CSASS) program on display at AUSA on Oct. 11, 2017.

Don’t worry, though: the NGSW is no peashooter. After conducting a two-year comprehensive Small Arms Ammunition Configuration examination of ammo and fire control systems, the Maneuver Center for Excellence plans on using the NGSW as the primary platform for the next-generation small arms systems that Army researchers are pursuing in accordance with Milley’s laser focus on infantry lethality. The final vision for the weapon includes a heads-up display embedded in a conventional rifle scope, and, as Cummings told Marine Corps Times on Oct. 8, is “a wireless fire control system that senses wind, calculates distance and compensates for ballistics, all while being able to spot heat signatures through thermals.”

Speaking at the annual Association of the U.S. Army convention in October, Milley promised that the NGSW would provide “10 times improvement” in individual Army soldiers’ small arms capability “over any other system in the world,” a bold promise given his dire warnings delivered to Congress back in April. And while the NGSW may not see action downrange until 2022, the Army’s six-month emotional roller-coaster ride over the ICSR may just indicate how focused the branch is on trying anything and everything it can to make America’s soldiers deadlier than ever as soon as possible.

WATCH NEXT:

Every once in a while, we run across a photo in The Times-Picayune archives that's so striking that it begs a simple question: "What in the name of Momus Alexander Morgus is going on in this New Orleans photograph?" When we do, we've decided, we're going to share it — and to attempt to answer that question.

Read More Show Less
Members of the Syrian Democratic Forces control the monitor of their drone at their advanced position, during the fighting with Islamic State's fighters in Nazlat Shahada, a district of Raqqa. (Reuters/Zohra Bensemra)

MUSCAT (Reuters) - The United States should keep arming and aiding the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) following the planned U.S. withdrawal from Syria, provided the group keeps up the pressure on Islamic State, a senior U.S. general told Reuters on Friday.

Read More Show Less

President Donald Trump claims the $6.1 billion from the Defense Department's budget that he will now spend on his border wall was not going to be used for anything "important."

Trump announced on Friday that he was declaring a national emergency, allowing him to tap into military funding to help pay for barriers along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Read More Show Less

Long before Tony Stark took a load of shrapnel to the chest in a distant war zone, science fiction legend Robert Heinlein gave America the most visceral description of powered armor for the warfighter of the future. Forget the spines of extra-lethal weaponry, the heads-up display, and even the augmented strength of an Iron Man suit — the real genius, Heinlein wrote in Starship Troopers, "is that you don't have to control the suit; you just wear it, like your clothes, like skin."

"Any sort of ship you have to learn to pilot; it takes a long time, a new full set of reflexes, a different and artificial way of thinking," explains Johnny Rico. "Spaceships are for acrobats who are also mathematicians. But a suit, you just wear."

First introduced in 2013, U.S. Special Operations Command's Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit (TALOS) purported to offer this capability as America's first stab at militarized powered armor. And while SOCOM initially promised a veritable Iron Man-style tactical armor by 2018, a Navy spokesman told Task & Purpose the much-hyped exoskeleton will likely never get off the launch pad.

"The prototype itself is not currently suitable for operation in a close combat environment," SOCOM spokesman Navy Lt. Phillip Chitty told Task & Purpose, adding that JATF-TALOS has no plans for an external demonstration this year. "There is still no intent to field the TALOS Mk 5 combat suit prototype."

Read More Show Less

D-Day veteran James McCue died a hero. About 500 strangers made sure of it.

"It's beautiful," Army Sgt. Pete Rooney said of the crowd that gathered in the cold and stood on the snow Thursday during McCue's burial. "I wish it happened for every veteran's funeral."

Read More Show Less