TAMPA, Fla. – Special operators say the next machine firearm should provide the power, range and accuracy of a .50 caliber the size of a platoon level M240 machine gun.
This Norma Magnum .338 light medium machine Firearmto put it lightly, is a “great breakthrough” in the field of small arms for special operations, said an expert.
The initiative was launched in 2017, and in the years since, two companies, Sig Sauer and General Dynamics, have mainly fought over the contract.
A Special Operations Forces Lethality Program Lt. Col. for Special Operations Command shared details of this and other small arms programs during his presentation Tuesday at the SOF industry conference held here by the National Defense Industrial Association.
Due to basic media rules, officials of rank O5 and below are not identified by name due to the operational nature of their work with SOCOM.
“It’s basically going to give us, not exactly, .50 caliber firepower in an M240 form factor,” the official said. “It’s a big step up in SOF lethality and there will be a lot of gear.”
The current M240 machine gun is chambered in 7.62mm NATO. It is a cartridge that has been in service for over half a century and has seen many advancements but, most experts agree, has reached the limits of its potential range and lethality.
The Marine Corps and the Army recently added a multi-barreled sniper rifle that can fire 7.62mm, .300 Winchester Magnum and .338 Norma Magnum, Marine Corps Times reported.
The official said the command is still working during the competition, but expects the machine gun to be delivered by fiscal year 2024.
Sig Sauer offered the Sig Sauer Light Machine Gun, or SLMG, a collapsible 20-pound machine gun designed to be fed from either side. This feature allows the weapon to be used effectively in dismounted, air or ground operations.
And the Sig Sauer version allows for an adjustable gas block that matches the pressure requirements for a variety of suppressors.
In 2019, Sig Sauer defense products manager Cory McQuilkin told Army Times that the suppression add-on did not change the weapon’s rate of fire, a previous concern with these types of systems.
Every light weapon option now takes suppressors into account.
In 2017, Sig Sauer won the all-service handgun replacement contract with the Modular Handgun System program. He also won the squad carbine and machine gun replacement contract earlier this year for the Next Generation Squad Weapon program.
General Dynamics claims that at ranges up to 1,000m, its weapon combo can penetrate Level III body armor and knock out soft-skinned vehicles.
Another on-going small arms replacement is the mid-range gas pistol, chambered in 6.5 Creedmoor.
This weapon will arrive a little earlier, deliveries should begin this year, according to the slides posted by the official.
The next step for the gas gun is to create an assault variant, useful for airborne operations and close combat in built-up areas.
For both weapons, the main additions will be “equipment,” the official said. This means optics, accessories to attach to the weapon and, above all, new types of ammunition.
He said the forces wanted armour-piercing shells, practice shells and “something that acts as a tracer”.
Services have been looking for a “one-way tracer” for years now. This is because when a shooter fires a tracer, the light emitted can be seen from both sides. This is useful for a shooter “marching” on a target with others shooting in their formation. But it works both ways, meaning the enemy can see where they’re shooting from and target them accordingly.
Todd South has written about crime, the courts, government and the military for several publications since 2004 and was named a 2014 Pulitzer Finalist for a co-authored project on witness intimidation. Todd is a Navy veteran of the Iraq War.