The directive came from Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Daniel Allyn and will likely prompt a competition, after which each Army combat arms squad get a new 7.62mm rifle.
Matt Walker from the Lethality Branch of the Maneuver Center for Excellence in Fort Benning, Georgia, told Military.com that weapons officials in the service have "operational need statements from every unit that has deployed for the last 16 years saying that 'a squad designated marksman is a requirement in theater.'"
He added, "The presence of a 7.62mm rifle in the formation is nothing new, but when [units] leave theater, they have to turn their guns in … A lot of the division and the corps commanders are very adamant, saying, 'Hey, we need to get those assets back in order to train with them to be competent.''"
The Enhanced Battle Rifle (EBR) has been the Army’s SDMR since 2009. An updated M14, the EBR features Harris bipod legs, a Leupold 3.5x10 power scope and a Sage International adjustable aluminum stock.
Weighing in at 15 pounds unloaded, the EBR is heavier than the nine-pound M14, and was first used but the Navy SEALs in 2004 as infantry squads needed to weapons that could reach enemy combatants from longer distances. The Army picked up on the tactic later.
Walker said, "Obviously, resources being what they are, there are people who say, 'Well, we got all these EBR14s,' and there are people that say, 'That is too heavy a load; we have learned that lesson so let's do something right by the soldier' … I'm pretty sure it is going to be a new gun."
Other 7.62mm rifles currently in inventory could serve as the new SDMR as well, as demonstrated by the Army’s choice of the Heckler & Koch’s G28 7.62mm rifle when it was looking for a new Compact Semi-Automatic Sniper System to replace the M110 rifle.
The service’s Program Executive Office released a statement at the time saying it was searching for a "shorter, lighter, more accurate, more ergonomic and more reliable Semi-Automatic Sniper System than the M110 with an improved day optic and suppressor."