The military tends to hold onto things far longer than they probably should. One good example: the B-52 bomber. The low bypass engines evoke a twinge of nostalgia for the early 1960’s. While they’ve been updated and still work, do we really want to rely on a design that’s well over a half century old to deliver nuclear weapons if, God forbid, we ever have to?
Unfortunately that same “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” approach applies to JSOC as well. While there are ways around these attitudinal roadblocks for some gear, eventually even the brass come to realize that their aging materiel might be holding them back. Now news comes from Scout that JSOC may have reached that point and are looking to replace their arsenal with gear that’s much more up to date.
Special Forces operators have a standard issue set of equipment they can use, but as one would expect, there are ways around the system to get the gear they really want to use. I’ve spoken to a couple such individuals who have used non-standard and experimental equipment in the field and they tell me that if it looks promising enough, they can always find a way.
Now, though, it seems it’s time to updated the standard gear. Starting at the high end, it appears that JSOC is looking for a new machine gun to replace the aging M240B and M240L series. Chambered in 7.62 NATO which and produced under contract by FN, they’re not ideal.
Range seems to be the biggest complaint among those I’ve spoken to — the 7.62 NATO cartridge just doesn’t have enough oomph to make a difference at the distances where JSOC expects to be operating. It was a cartridge that made sense for urban European combat scenarios and relatively close range jungle combat. Out in the open desert of Afghanistan and possibly Syria, it just doesn’t cut the mustard.
A heavy favorite for a replacement is General Dynamic’s .338 Norma Magnum machine gun, which we saw and got some trigger time behind at NDIA back in 2012. Technically the military says they’re looking for an “intermediate” cartridge for the replacement MG, but somehow I doubt that General Dynamics went through the trouble of building this thing and showing it off if there wasn’t an appetite for stretching that definition a bit to include “anything under 50 BMG.” The gun is an absolute beast, but still amazingly accurate at distance.
Next on the chopping block is the current compliment of sniper rifles. Rifles now in the JSOC arsenal are based on a typical action design with the barrel threaded and set into the action by an armorer. Changing barrels based on mission requirements isn’t really possible — it’s easier to swap the entire gun.
JSOC is requesting from the manufacturers a rifle design that let’s the individual soldier in the field swap the barrel with the removal of a single screw. That allows them to select the caliber and barrel length that gives them the most versatility and lethality in a given situation.
Remington Defense is probably the crowd favorite for this one. They released their XM2010 rifle in (surprise surprise) 2010, and the Remington MSR or “Modular Sniper Rifle” is an improved version currently being considered by the military for other roles.
It meets the requirements and seems to fit JSOC’s demands as well, plus the fact that it’s a great rifle made by a well-known manufacturer. Other competitors include the Ballista from FN and some other minor entries from less well known companies.
Finally JSOC is looking for a replacement upper receiver group for their M4 rifles that they’re dubbing the “Suppressed Upper Receiver Group” to make their operators more stealthy. I’m pretty sure anyone with two brain cells to rub together can see where they are going with this.
The SIG SAUER MCX was designed so that the upper receiver group could be dropped straight onto an existing AR-15 or M4 lower receiver and work flawlessly. Naturally they’d much rather sell the whole kit, but it’s a start. SIG has designed the upper receiver and their new silencers to work hand-in-hand to provide superior suppression and accuracy with minimal added weight for the operator.
If we’re talking about a complete upper receiver system for this purpose then SIG SAUER is head and shoulders above everyone else, with Remington and AAC coming in a distant second.
That’s what JSOC appears to have up its sleeve, and what my (somewhat educated) predictions are for what they have in mind. But as always, the procurement process is a dark and mysterious beast that no one really understands. Stay tuned.