M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle
|M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle|
A U.S. Marine armed with an M27 fitted with a Harris bipod and a 3.5x SAW Day Optic covers his team in Afghanistan in March 2012.
|Place of origin||Germany|
|Used by||United States Marine Corps|
|Designer||Heckler & Koch|
|Manufacturer||Heckler & Koch|
|Number built||4,500 planned|
|Weight||7.9 lb (3.6 kg) empty|
|Length||36.9 to 33 in (940 to 840 mm) w/ adjustable stock|
|Barrel length||16.5 in (420 mm)|
|Width||3.1 in (79 mm)|
|Height||9.4 in (240 mm)|
|Action||Gas-operated short-stroke piston, rotating bolt|
|Rate of fire||Sustained: 40 rpm
Cyclic: 560 to 640 rpm
|Feed system||30-round STANAG magazine|
|Sights||3.5x SAW Day Optic, flip-up rear rotary diopter sight and front post|
The M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle (IAR) is a lightweight, magazine-fed 5.56mm weapon used by the United States Marine Corps. It is intended to enhance an automatic rifleman's maneuverability and displacement speed, and it is based on the HK416. The U.S. Marine Corps is planning to purchase 6,500 IARs to replace a portion of the M249 light machine guns currently employed by automatic riflemen within Infantry and Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalions. Approximately 8,000–10,000 M249s will remain in service at the company level to be used at the discretion of company commanders. The United States Army does not plan to purchase the IAR.
The Infantry Automatic Rifle program began in 2005, when the Marine Corps sought information from manufacturers. In 2006, contracts were issued for sample weapons to Fabrique Nationale d'Herstal (providing an IAR variant of the FN SCAR), Heckler & Koch (with a variant of the HK416), and Colt Defense, which provided two competing designs. Companies that attempted to compete but were not accepted as finalists for testing include Land Warfare Resources Corporation, which competed with the M6A4 IAR, Patriot Ordnance Factory, and General Dynamics Armament and Technical Products with the CIS Ultimax 100 MK5 (marketed as the GDATP IAR). In December 2009, the Heckler & Koch model beat out the other three finalists, and has entered the final five months of testing. It was designated as the M27 in the summer of 2010, coincidentally sharing a designation with the M27 link it would not use, but instead it was named after 2nd Battalion, 7th Marines, who were testing with automatic rifles since before September 11, 2001.
While Marine Corps Systems Command was optimistic about operational testing, former Commandant of the Marine Corps General James T. Conway remained skeptical that the reduced firepower at the fireteam-level was a viable option. After the Marine Corps Operational Test and Evaluation Activity supervised a round of testing at MCAGCC Twentynine Palms, Fort McCoy, and Camp Shelby (for dust, cold-weather, and hot-weather conditions, respectively), limited fielding began for 458 IARs to four infantry battalions (one per each Marine Expeditionary Force and one reserve) and one light armored reconnaissance battalion; all of which deployed to Afghanistan in 2011.
In May 2011, General James Amos of the U.S. Marine Corps approved the termination of a Limited User Evaluation (LUE), and the replacement of the M249 LMG by the M27. Fielding of the approximately 6,500 M27 units is expected to be completed in the summer of 2013, for a cost of $13 million. M27 gunners will be equipped with around 22 of the 30-round magazines already in use with the M16 and M4 Carbine. Twenty-two magazines will approximate the prescribed individual combat load of a M249 SAW gunner, and although the M27 gunner is not expected to carry all 22 magazines, they are provided to the units so that a determination can be made at the unit level on what the individual combat load should look like. It will undoubtedly vary by unit, based on the evaluations conducted by the four infantry battalion and one light armored reconnaissance battalion that were issued quantities of the M27 for the LUE. Though program officials are aware that switching from the belt-fed M249 will result in a loss of suppressive fire capabilities, Charles Clark III, of the Marine Corps' Combat Development and Integration office cites the substantially increased accuracy of the M27 as a significant factor in replacing the M249.
The notion that the M27 represents a reduction in suppressive fire has spawned considerable debate among proponents of the M249 SAW within the infantry, and those who advocate that a lighter, more maneuverable, and accurate weapon is sufficient to support offensive operations at the squad level. It is debatable, in fact, that program officials actually concede a loss of suppressive fire capabilities, as the only statements of concern over this concept were made by General Conway.
Beyond the increased accuracy another proposed benefit of the M27 over the M249 are that it is in many respects a modified M4 rifle as used by the rest of the squad. This makes it far more suitable for operating indoors and in other cramped situations where its reduced size and weight make it faster and easier to handle. Although not ideal for close quarters fighting, it is far better in this function than the M249.
Marines issued with the M27 enjoy its familiarity with the M4-style weapons in service. It is more friendly to troops due to its cleaner, lightweight system having fewer moving parts and jams. IAR gunners consider the rifle-grade accuracy to be a huge improvement over the SAW, despite the loss of sustained firing. With a shrinking budget, the Marine Corps is looking at ways to implement the IAR as a multipurpose weapon. Suggestions include use as an automatic rifle and as a designated marksman rifle.
The M27 is based on the Heckler & Koch HK416, which in turn derives from the M4 carbine and Heckler & Koch G36. It features a gas-operated short-stroke piston action with a rotating bolt. The free-floating barrel is surrounded by MIL-STD-1913 Picatinny rails for use with accessories and optics. The simpler gas-piston rifle system reduces the amount of time it takes to resolve malfunctions on the IAR compared with the M249.
The IAR will be distributed one per four-man fireteam, three per squad, 28 per company, 84 per infantry battalion, and 72 per Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, with 4,476 total for the Marine Corps. Nine M249s will still be available per company in reserve.
It draws ammunition from a standard 30 round STANAG magazine. Due to its role, high capacity magazines of between 50 and 100 rounds are being explored. The M27 has been successfully test fired with the Armatac SAW-MAG 150 round drum magazine. The M27 cannot be fed from the widely used PMAG 30 GEN M2 magazine that M4s or M16 rifles in the squad can take. Because of this, the Marines banned the polymer PMAG for issue on November 26, 2012 to prevent interchangeability issues. In response, Magpul began the process of arranging verification and official testing for their newer PMAG 30 GEN M3 magazine, which is compatible with both the M27 and M16-series rifles.
The M27 is essentially an HK416 D16.5RS with accessories required by the Marine Corps. The standard optic is the Trijicon ACOG Squad Day Optic (SDO). It is issued with the Vickers Combat Applications sling and rail sling mounts, AIM Manta Rail Covers, Harris bipod, KAC backup iron sights, a foregrip, and bayonet lug.
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- This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the United States Marine Corps.
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