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​SOCOM searches for 7.62mm conversion kit

20th March 2017 - 11:40 by Andrew White in London

​SOCOM searches for 7.62mm conversion kit

A US Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) solicitation calling for the design of a Personal Defense Weapon (PDW) could have serious implications for the future of the standard NATO 5.56mm x 45mm calibre assault rifle across the special operations community, defence sources have explained to Shephard.

According to the 9 March request for information (RFI), the Tampa-based command is seeking a conversion kit for the 5.56mm x 45mm Colt Defense M4A1 carbine in order to upgrade it to a .300 BLK cailbre (7.62mm x 35mm) weapon system.

The news follows years of ongoing debate in which special operations forces (SOF) have considered the evolution from 5.56mm to alternative calibres including 6.5mm, 6.8mm and .300 BLK ammunition.

Despite retaining the option to alternate between such weapon systems for specialist tasks and roles, sources explained how such a wholesale change in calibre across entire assault rifle inventories had been avoided due to the vast costs associated with such a change.

The USSOCOM requirement features an upper receiver and buttstock conversion kit, which would allow an operator to switch between 5.56mm and .300 BLK calibres within a few minutes with the additional benefit of the added integration of a suppressor, the solicitation reads.

Despite being tagged as a PDW development, USSOCOM's requirement falls in line with similar efforts across the international special operations community where force elements are demanding enhanced lethality and stopping power particularly relevant to close quarter combat situations.

For example, in November, the Netherlands Maritime Special Operations Force (NL MARSOF) announced plans to procure 200 Sig Sauer MCX .300 BLK carbines (pictured) in order to replace its existing inventory of Heckler and Koch 5.56mm x 45mm HK416 rifles.

The MCX, according to defence sources, is also being considered by the Royal Netherlands Army's Special Forces Regiment (KCT) as well as the German Army's Special Forces Command (KSK).

According to USSOCOM's solicitation, the PDW requirement must comprise a non-permanent upgrade solution with the M4A1 weighing no more than 5.5lbs and measuring no more than 26inches when fully extended.

'The weapon shall be fully functional when collapsed or folded. Kit should include a 5.56mm barrel that can be changed from .300 BLK to 5.56mm in less than 3 minutes. Accuracy shall be 3.0 MOA (T), 2.0 MOA (O) @100 yds. and 5.0 MOA (T), 3.0 MOA (O) @ 300 yds. both in .300 BLK supersonic,' the solicitation added. Deadline for responses is 10 April 2017, it concluded.

Defence sources explained to Shephard how most of the small arms manufacturers in the US will be capable of supporting such a programme with participants likely to include Sig Sauer, Heckler & Koch, M4A1 designer Colt Defense and FN Herstal USA.

The news follows USSOCOM's interest in the development of Suppressed Upper Receiver Group (SURG) technology, designed to reduce 'mirage effects', noise and dust effects during operations in confined spaces.

However, this option would comprise an upper receiver with floating barrel and permanently integrated suppressor, which has become a signature piece of equipment for the international special operations community in recent years.

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