The Marine Corps recently awarded a contract to buy thousands of new M27 Infantry Automatic Rifles for a savings of more than 50 percent compared with what it has paid in the past for the Heckler & Koch-made weapon.
The contract, worth up to $29.4 million, was awarded to H&K in Ashburn, Virginia, to supply the service with as many as 15,000 M27 IARs and spare parts, according to an April 27 press release from Marine Corps Systems Command.
The Marines are paying $7.4 million for the first 5,650 IARs, at an average cost of $1,300 each. That's about $1,700 less than M27 price tag the Corps has paid in the past.
The additional M27 IARs will be fielded to active and reserve infantry platoons in 2019 to replace the M4 carbine, according to the release.
"The fielding of additional M27s will provide an immediate increase in overall combat capability for both current and future operating environments," Chief Warrant Officer 5 Mark Salmons, the Plans, Policies and Operations Gunner for the Marine Corps, said in the release.
In 2008, the service selected H&K to supply it with 6,500 M27 rifles, following a competition to find a replacement for the M249 squad automatic weapon in infantry, reconnaissance and light armored reconnaissance units, according to the release.
In February 2017, the Marine Corps released an open request for information to determine whether another company could supply comparable IAR capabilities for the entire infantry rifle squad, but decided it would be too costly.
"Having received industry price estimates for potential rifles and associated components, the Marine Corps determined that a competition to purchase M27 IARs from a new commercial vendor, whether international or domestic, would cause substantial and unavoidable cost duplications and unacceptable delays in fulfilling the agency's needs," the release states.
"These cost duplications and time delays are itemized and depicted in a Justification and Approval document signed by Marine Corps Systems Command's Executive Director in July 2017. The J&A was based on unit price estimates, the costs associated with repeated test events, and the number of interested vendors."
Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller confirmed to Military.com in December that the service had decided to outfit every member of the Marine Corps infantry squad with the M27 in place of the current M4 carbine infantry service rifle.
Military.com first broke the news in 2016 that the Marine Corps was considering the M27 for grunts, which has advantages over the M4 in range and accuracy.
Part of the reason the Marine Corps is getting a better deal on the M27 may have to do with increased demand for the rifle, which is based on the HK 416, company officials told Military.com in January.
The French military contracted with H&K for 100,000 HK 416 rifles over the next 10 years, to replace its current infantry FAMAS rifle, according to H&K officials. In addition, Germany announced last October that it planned to buy more than 1,700 416A7s for its special forces units.
Unlike the M4, the M27 IAR is fully automatic to provide a higher volume of fire.
"Since the M27 has been fielded, it has proven to be extremely reliable, durable and accurate," Chief Warrant Officer 5 Joel Schwendinger, a Combat Development and Integration Gunner, said in the release.
The Marine Corps Operating Concept identifies the need for "increased lethality in Marine rifle platoons and squads," he said.
"The M27 provides the Corps with the necessary increase in lethality," Schwendinger said. "Unlike other infantry specialties that primarily fight with crew-served weapons, such as mortars and machine guns, rifle platoons primarily fight with rifles, and the M27 has proven to be the best overall fighting rifle."
-- Matthew Cox can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.