The MCX Spear is Sig Sauer’s answer to the Army request for a Next Generation Squad Weapon Rifle. It could replace the M4 for soldiers in combat roles and fires a new round: 6.8×51. This is the Army’s first new round in sixty-five years.
When the US Army began its search for an upgrade to the M4A1, a major concern was ammunition for its next-gen squad weapon, which has been designed to work in close-, medium- and long-range battles. The new 6.8mm ammunition was the upgrade the military wanted as the round punches harder than either the American 5.56 or the Russian 7.62.
The 6.8mm ammunition is being produced at the Lake City Army Ammunition Plant in Missouri which is contracter-operated by Northrop Grumman’s small caliber system division and produces around one and a half billion rounds a year of the DoD’s small caliber ammunition, including 5.56 mm and 7.62 mm bullets.
The Next-Generation Squad Weapon program also will produce a new machine gun to replace the M249 Squad Automatic Weapon (SAW).
And that’s where we start to see a problem.
Brig. Gen. William M. Boruff, joint program executive officer for armaments and ammunition, elucidated:
“Current ammunition is such that the availability is almost an afterthought. You go to the supply point, you pick up your ammunition and you go out to the range and you fire your” weapon, Boruff said. “This is because the Army has spent decades refining its process to ensure a sufficient inventory of 5.56 ammunition is available and the industry base is present to continue replenishing on a consistent basis.
“Now consider preparing a new weapon fielding, starting with absolute zero inventory and the industrial base being established,” he continued. “The Army has not introduced a new caliber for about 65 years … Doing so will require extensive coordination with the stakeholders across the enterprise to develop combat and training requirements, production capability as well as budgeting for procurement.”
Ensuring ammo stockpiles are sufficient from the get-go will take the concerted efforts of both Sig and Lake City. But as Reader Rob comments: “…we may see a surplus of 5.56/.223 hitting the market at REASONABLE prices. One can only hope…”