Updated 11:29 AM EDT, Tue, Jun 16, 2020

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US Army Chief Approves Plans to Field New 7.62 mm Rifle Ammo

Headed for the army?

(Photo : H&K) M27 IAR being fired.

The need for the U.S. Army to field a new "battle rifle" firing the deadlier and longer ranged 7.62 mm cartridge received a boost when Gen. Mark Milley, Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army, testified that improved 5.56 mm rounds fired from Colt M4 carbines will not penetrate modern enemy body armor.

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Speaking before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Gen. Milley said that because of this failing, he plans to arm infantry units with rifles chambered for the more lethal 7.62mm cartridge.

Gen. Milley admitted the army's M855A1 Enhanced Performance Round (EPR) will not defeat enemy body armor plates similar to the U.S. military-issue armored plates such as the Enhanced Small Arms Protective Insert (ESAPI).

"The 5.56mm round, we recognize that there is a type of body armor out there, that it doesn't penetrate. We also have that body armor ourselves," he said.

Gen. Milley revealed scientists at the army's Maneuver Center of Excellence at Fort Benning, Georgia have developed a new 7.62mm round to solve the problem.

"We have developed a pretty effective round down at Fort Benning," he said. "We know we have a bullet that can penetrate these new plates."

Gen. Milley, however, refused to confirm if the new 7.62 mm round will mean the army will have to develop a new battle rifle to fire this round. He also said not every soldier will need a 7.62mm rifle.

He noted there are battle rifles on the shelf today that can be adapted to meet the Army's needs with very minor modifications. A battle rifle is defined as a rifle that fires a full power cartridge such as the 7.62x51mm NATO round.

"I think there are weapons out there that we can get in the right caliber that can enhance the capability of the infantry soldier," said Gen. Milley.

"This idea that the entire Army needs the same thing all the time, it's not necessarily true. There are some infantry units that are much more highly likely to rapidly deploy than others and conduct close-quarters combat that we would probably want to field them with a better-grade weapon that can penetrate this body armor that we are talking about."

Gen, Milley pointed out the U.S. Marines are adopting the M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle (IAR), a version of the Heckler & Koch HK416 assault rifle. The HK416 was recently adopted by the French Army as its new infantry rifle.

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