Union Tribune

August 8, 2002 

Marines set sights on new basic rifle

By OTTO KREISHER 
COPLEY NEWS SERVICE 

WASHINGTON While most of the Pentagon's procurement
efforts focus on exotic, high-tech equipment for future wars, the
Marine Corps is conducting an intense study on a replacement
for its most basic, but perhaps most important, weapon its
rifle.

After six weeks of concentrated testing, a team will give Marine
leaders a recommendation on which of two possible weapons
should replace the M-16A2, an improved version of the
Vietnam-vintage assault rifle.

It is a serious issue for a service that proclaims "every Marine a
rifleman."

"The M-16A2 has been around a long time, so we're taking a look
at replacing some of those weapons," said Lt. Gen. Emil Bedard,
the deputy commandant for plans, policy and operations.

"We've just conducted a fairly extensive series of tests at Camp
Lejeune" in North Carolina, Bedard said.

He added that a report will be submitted to the commandant,
Gen. James L. Jones, "very shortly."

The two weapons being tested, the M-4 and the M-16A4, are
modifications of the current rifle and are not great technological
leaps forward in themselves. But they allow the use of a number
of high-tech devices that would improve the Marine
infantryman's basic weapon.

The M-4 is a shorter and lighter version of the current rifle. It is
particularly effective in the constricted conditions of urban
fighting and can be modified quickly with a variety of electronic
or special optical sights for improved accuracy at night.

The M-16A4 is slightly shorter than the current rifle and can use
the same advanced sights as the M-4.

Capt. Chad Walton, a spokesman for the Marine Corps Systems
Command at Quantico, Va., said the two weapons were tested on
19 basic infantry training requirements, including in urban and
open-country situations.

Bedard said the widespread failures of newly issued British army
rifles in Afghanistan demonstrate why "we wanted to do
extensive tests before making a recommendation."