By David Crane
defrev (at) gmail (dot) com
December 4, 2009
Updated on 12/15/09
Marine Times (a.k.a. Marine Corps Times) is reporting on the U.S. Marine Corps (USMC) selecting the Heckler & Koch Infantry Automatic Rifle–or HK IAR, for short–to replace the FN M249 SAW/LMG (Squad Automatic Weapon/Light Machine Gun). The HK IAR is a 5.56x45mm NATO (5.56mm NATO) gas piston/op-rod AR-15-config carbine that’s based on the HK416 carbine/SBR (Short Barreled Rifle) platform.
The IAR is designed to give FN M249 SAW/LMG-type capability in a lighter-weight rifle/carbine package that’s not only easier for mobile infantry warfighters to carry and employ/deploy than an M249, but also give them a similar weapons signature to the rest of the fire team/rifle squad, so they’re harder to identify, and thus target, by enemy forces. The enemy will tend to go for (i.e. kill) the machine gunner first, in order to render the fire team less lethal and effective. The IAR camouflages the infantry automatic rifleman, and his ballistic capability.
So, in that sense, the Infantry Automatic Rifle is a decent concept, provided it’s not actually replacing the LMG/SAW, but simply complimenting it. On the downside, some Marines are concerned about the reduction in firepower vs. the M249, since the IAR is mag-fed not belt-fed, and therefore isn’t designed to operate with a 200-round drum/ammo container. Those Marines are right to be concerned, if the Marine Corps hierarchy actually wants to remove the LMG/SAW from the fire team. Currently, the HK IAR can utilize standard 30-round 4179 STANAG AR-15/M16/M4/M4A1 box magazines, the 100-shot Beta C-MAG double drum mag, and possibly even the MWG 90-Rounder drum mag (provided the weapon’s magwell will accept it), although new 100-150-shot magazines are reportedly being developed by industry for the IAR.
DefenseReview isn’t really a big fan of the Beta C-MAG, and we wouldn’t want to have to rely on it in a dynamic infantry combat environment. It’s simply not as reliable as we’d like under adverse conditions and high round count, and it requires graphite powder lubrication to run properly. We do, however, like the MWG 90-Rounder for certain applications, even though it’s not perfect and could use a bit of a redesign, in our opinion. The MWG 90-Rounder is reliable, however, provided it’s utilized with a quality rifle/carbine platform like the Ferfrans SOAR AR SBR/subcarbine series.
The HK IAR weighs 7.9 lbs empty. Barrel length is 16.5 inches (16.5″).
According to Marine senior gunner and Chief Warrant Officer 5 Jeffrey Eby, The H&K IAR “was truly the best in the class on multiple levels and will finally allow the billet of automatic rifleman to be performed as intended without the disruption of the squad integrity that the M249 created.” Eby says that IOT (Initial Operational Testing) is scheduled to take place from January to May 2010 in Panama, at the Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center, and the Marine Corps Air-Ground Combat Center in California. “If successful and awarded full-rate production approval, then we should see initial operational capability by late summer 2010,” Eby said.
So, is the Infantry Automatic Rifle (IAR) a good idea? Yes and no. It’s a good idea to give warfighters a carbine/SBR with machine gun-level full-auto fire capability, again, provided it doesn’t actually replace the LMG/SAW in the squad, but simply compliments it. However, all one really needs to do to give any direct-gas-impingement (DGI)/DI gas or gas piston/op-rod AR carbine or SBR IAR/LMG-type capability is stick a heavy machine gun barrel on it and a Ferfrans Rate Reduction System (RRS) in it. That’s pretty much it, and it’s a much simpler and less-expensive solution. The RRS reduces the cyclic rate of fire below the 700 RPM threshold, which aids in weapon controllability and simultaneously reduces barrel and weapon heating and stress on all the weapons critical parts. The heavy machine gun barrel better resists the heat generated by full-auto fire.
Company Contact Info:
HK USA Military and Federal Law Enforcement Sales (USA)
19980 Highland Vista Drive, Suite 190
Ashburn, Virginia 20147 USA
HK USA Commercial and Law Enforcement Sales (USA)
5675 Transport Boulevard
Columbus, Georgia 31907 USA
Heckler & Koch GmbH Global Corporate Headquarters & Primary Manufacturing Center
Postfach 1329 D-78722
Tel: +49 (0) 74 23 79 -0
Fax: +49 (0) 74 23 79 -23 50
Global Website: http://www.heckler-koch.com
Corps chooses H&K to make SAW replacement (Marine Corps Times)