Ok, maybe it's not a SAW replacement, but they're not sure.
The general in charge of training and equipping Marines for the future fight said Nov. 16 that it is still unclear how infantry units will need to adjust to replace their light machine guns with the service's new automatic rifle.
Lt. Gen. George Flynn, who heads the Marine Corps Combat Development Command in Quantico, told reporters at a Washington, D.C. breakfast that the service plans to finish outfitting five battalions with the new M-27 Infantry Automatic Rifle next month and then will observe how those Marines use it on deployment before changing the organization, training, and tactics of infantry units around the new weapon.
But Flynn pushed back at critics of the M-27, saying the improved accuracy of the Heckler and Koch-made automatic rifle makes up for a lower rate of fire compared to the M-249 Squad Automatic Weapon it's being fielded to replace.
"The initial feedback was that the IAR performed pretty well," Flynn said of early evaluations of the M-27. "Accuracy has a suppressive power all by itself."
The introduction of the M-27 is a return to the roots of the Marine infantry squad, Flynn argued, which featured an "automatic rifleman" that eventually evolved into a light machine gunner with the introduction of the SAW in the 1980s.
The Corps' adoption of the IAR has been fraught with controversy, with critics arguing the limited firepower of an M-27 -- which shoots a 30-round magazine -- would leave Marines vulnerable. The lead-spitting power of the M-249 and its 200-round drum helps keep bad guys in place while grunts maneuver in for the kill, skeptics argued.
In March interview with Military.com, then Commandant Gen. James Conway cast doubt on the utility of the IAR, saying the service had to wait and see whether it should be adopted. But field tests performed in Twentynine Palms, Calif., last summer turned skeptics into converts.
At a recent "town hall" meeting at Quantico, incoming Commandant Gen. Jim Amos raved about the M-27, saying it's in the running to replace all SAWs in the inventory.
"I fired the [IAR] ... and this thing could -- notice I didn't say 'would' -- could replace the SAW," Amos said. "Any of you grunts in here who have not fired that weapon, you need to fire that weapon."What do you ex and current military readers think of it? Anyone fired it?
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