October 12th, 2011

Marines Replace M249 SAW with M27 IAR (HK416)

The U.S. Marine Corps. has ordered $23.6 million worth of gas-piston M27 full-auto rifles from Heckler & Koch to replace aging M249 SAW machine guns. Designated the M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle (IAR), the Marines’ new 11.62-lb weapon is a heavy-barrel variant of the highly successful Heckler & Koch HK416 used by military, law enforcement, and special operations units in the U.S. and throughout the world. The HK416 is basically an AR15 that HK “fixed” with a gas piston assembly and other tweaks to improve reliability, particularly during full-auto fire.

The M27 IAR replaces the heavier, M249 SAW (Squad Automatic Weapon) which has been used by the Marines in infantry squads since the mid-1980s in the automatic rifle role. Both weapons fire the 5.56×45 mm NATO cartridge. The Marines plan to have one M27 IAR per four-man fire team, with three M27 IARs per squad, 28 per company and more than 4,000 across the entire Corps. The M27 IAR is already being used in combat in Afghanistan. CLICK HERE for M27 combat photos

Marine Corps M27 IAR

The five-year, indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity contract calls for possible delivery orders up to $23,600,000 for the production, delivery, and associated support of the Marines’ Infantry Automatic Rifle program. The Marine Corps approved the full production and fielding of the M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle during the summer of 2011.

The M27 contract has drawn fire because critics say the M27 IAR is simply a “more reliable M16/M4″ that lacks key features required by any practical squad automatic weapon — belt-feeding, and interchangeable barrels. With belt-fed ammo and interchangeable barrels, an automatic weapon can produce large volumes of fire, over a sustained period, to pin down the enemy. An M27 operator must change box magazines every 30 rounds. On the other hand, the M27 IAR is about half the weight of the M249, and that seems to have been a key factor in the Marine Corps’ decision to replace the M249 SAW. Marine spokesman Major Joseph Plenzler declared: “The fielding of the IAR will significantly enhance the ability of our infantrymen to … reduce their fighting load and provide them a more ergonomic and accurate weapons system that can keep up during the assault.”

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