There’s no secret that the military has been looking to ditch the M4 / M16 for quite some time. The last serious effort was the Individual Carbine competition, announced in 2011 and cancelled in 2013 when none of the guns involved met the specification. Word comes now from the Army Times that the military is at it again, but might be trying to change things the other way around.
Instead of selecting a better rifle for the 5.56 NATO cartridge, the military might be selecting a new cartridge altogether and asking manufacturers to create a gun to shoot it. From the article:
Army researchers are testing half a dozen ammunition variants in “intermediate calibers,” which falls between the current 7.62 mm and 5.56 mm rounds, to create a new light machine gun and inform the next-generation individual assault rifle/round combo.
The weapon designs being tested will be “unconventional,” officials said, and likely not one that is currently commercially available.
Some intermediate calibers being tested include the .260 Remington, 6.5 Creedmoor, .264 USA as well as other non-commercial intermediate calibers, including cased telescoped ammo, Army officials said.
I’d love to see a caseless design come out as the winner of this competition; I think it could cut down on production costs and provide a more “green” solution to ammunition now that you’re not leaving lead and carbon covered pieces of brass all over the world.
That said, my bet is on something like 6.8 SPC. A cartridge that will (mostly) fit the existing magazines and crates used in the military supply chain would cut down on the cost of implementation and sweeten the deal for military brass.
According to reports we should know the winner in the next couple months, and then the real fun can start.