A tip of the boonie hat to Peter for this link.
Army begins shipping improved 5.56mm cartridge
Jun 23, 2010
By Picatinny Arsenal Public Affairs Office
PICATINNY ARSENAL, N.J. (June 23, 2010) -- The Army announced today it has begun shipping its new 5.56mm cartridge, the M855A1 Enhanced Performance Round, to support warfighters in Afghanistan.
The new M855A1 round is sometimes referred to as "green ammo."
The new round replaces the current M855 5.56mm cartridge that has been used by U.S. troops since the early 1980s.
The M855A1 resulted in a number of significant enhancements not found in the current round, officials said. They explained these include improved hard-target capability, more dependable, consistent performance at all distances, improved accuracy, reduced muzzle flash and a higher velocity.
During testing, the M855A1 performed better than current 7.62mm ball ammunition against certain types of targets, blurring the performance differences that previously separated the two rounds.
The projectile incorporates these improvements without adding weight or requiring additional training.
According to Lt. Col. Jeffrey K. Woods, the program's product manager, the projectile is "the best general purpose 5.56mm round ever produced."
Woods said its fielding represents the most significant advancement in general purpose small caliber ammunition in decades.
The Enhanced Performance Round contains an environmentally-friendly projectile that eliminates up to 2,000 tons of lead from the manufacturing process each year in direct support of Army commitment to environmental stewardship.
Woods said the effort is a clear example of how "greening" a previously hazardous material can also provide extremely beneficial performance improvements.
Picatinny Arsenal's Project Manager for Maneuver Ammunition Systems manages the M855A1 program.
Project Manager Chris Grassano called the fielding "the culmination of an Army enterprise effort by a number of organizations, particularly the Army Research Laboratory, Armament Research Development and Engineering Center, Program Executive Office for Ammunition and the Joint Munitions Command.
"The Army utilized advanced science, modeling and analysis to produce the best 5.56mm round possible for the warfighter," he said.
The M855A1 is tailored for use in the M-4 weapon system but also improves the performance of the M-16 and M-249 families of weapons.
A true general-purpose round, the M855A1 exceeds the performance of the current M855 against the many different types of targets likely to be encountered in combat.
Prior to initial production, the EPR underwent vigorous testing. Official qualification of the round consisted of a series of side-by-side tests with the current M855.
Overall, the Army fired more than 1 million rounds to ensure the new cartridge met or exceeded all expectations. The M855A1 is without question the most thoroughly tested small caliber round ever fielded, Woods said.
The Army has recently completed the Limited Rate Initial Production phase for the M855A1 and is beginning the follow-on full rate production phase where plans are to procure more than 200 millions rounds over the next 12-15 months.
The M855A1 Enhanced Performance Round is the first environmentally-friendly bullet resulting from a larger "greening" effort across the Army's Small Caliber Ammunition programs. Other greening efforts include 5.56mm tracer, 7.62mm ball and green primers.
Soldiers in Afghanistan will begin using the new, improved round this summer.
BUT . . .
It seems the above may be just more PC bullshit that keeps the best rounds from getting into the hands of Army troops.
Army's Proposed New M855A1 to Use Solid Copper Bullet
Army Times, 08 March 2010
Deadlier round DENIED: Push for lead-free slug means soldiers won’t get Marines’ new 5.56 ammo
By Matthew Cox
Special Operations Command and now the Marine Corps are fielding a deadlier 5.56mm round, but the Army says soldiers can’t have it. Instead, the service is holding on to its dream of environmentally friendly ammunition.
Army ammunition officials are on their third attempt at redesigning the Cold War-era M855 5.56mm round by adding a better-performing, lead-free bullet. The service had to halt the M855A1 Lead-Free Slug program in July when the new bullet failed to perform under high temperatures. The setback delayed fielding by nearly a year.
The newest version of the green round is in the live-fire test phase and Army officials said they are confident it will be ready for combat use by June.
The Marine Corps, however, doesn’t share this confidence. The Corps has dropped its plans to field the Army’s M855A1 and approved the new SOST round for Marines to use in Afghanistan. SOST, short for Special Operations Science and Technology, is SOCOM’s enhanced 5.56mm round. It isn’t green, but it is deadlier than the current M855 round and it’s available now, Marine officials say.
The Corps’ decision to purchase about 2 million SOST rounds in September illustrates the growing frustration with the M855’s performance on the modern battlefield.
The M855 was developed in the 1970s and approved as an official NATO round in 1980. In recent years, troops have widely criticized it. They complain it is ineffective against barriers such as car wind- shields and often travels right through unarmored insurgents, with less than lethal effects.
Jason Gillis, a former Army staff sergeant, first witnessed the M855’s shortcomings in 2004 on the streets of Baghdad. He was a squad leader with 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, on patrol when a vehicle began speeding toward his unit.
After several warnings, “both of our M249s opened up instantly, forming a crisscross pattern of tracer that met at the vehicles engine compartment and wind- shield. Within seconds, riflemen and grenadiers were executing magazine changes while the vehicle kept rolling and finally stopped 10 meters from my lead troops,” Gillis recalled in an e-mail to Army Times. He is now a free-lance writer who often focuses on military small-arms issues.
“Assuming the driver was most likely riddled beyond recognition, we were all astounded to see the driver emerge from the vehicle completely unscathed,” Gillis wrote. “Closer inspection revealed that the M855 ammunition had failed to effectively penetrate the vehicle’s windshield despite the fact over 400 rounds were expended at extremely close range and on target.”
Other soldiers say they like the M855 because it’s lightweight, but wish it had more punch.
“The idea of being able to carry 210 rounds [basic load] is quickly overshadowed by the fact that it takes more than one and even more than two rounds to drop the enemy,” Staff Sgt. Charles Kouri, 82nd Air- borne Division, told Army Times.
Army going ‘green’
Army officials acknowledged that the M855 “has not been providing the ‘stopping power’ the user would like at engagement ranges less than 150 yards,” according to a June 17, 2005, Project Manager Maneuver Ammunition briefing.
Ballistics experts maintain, however, that no bullet is perfect and that it is highly unlikely any bullet will cause an enemy to drop every time after just one shot.
“There is not a bullet in this world that will do that,” said Dr. Martin Fackler, former director of the Wound Ballistics Laboratory at the Letterman Army Institute of Research who also served in the Vietnam War as a combat surgeon. “Even if you take the guy’s heart apart, he can still shoot back at you for 15 seconds because he’s still got enough oxygen in the blood in his brain to do it.”
Still, the Army pushed forward with two priorities: to find ammo that performs better and is also lead-free. As part of a larger effort to study bullet lethality, the Army began revamping its green bullet program, an effort that first began in 1996.
The first attempt featured a tungsten-nylon blend that didn’t perform well and proved to be almost as harmful to the environment as lead.
Another attempt, with the M855A1 LFS, appeared to be the solution. The new round was made of a bismuth-tin alloy with a steel penetrator. Army officials said the M855A1 provided more “consistent performance” than the M855 round and performed better against barriers such as wind- shields and car doors.
The Army has spent about $32 million on the LFS program since fiscal 2007.
The Army had planned to start issuing the first of 20 million M855A1 rounds last August, until an 11th-hour problem surfaced when some of the bullets did not follow their trajectory or intended flight path. The slug proved to be sensitive to heat.
The latest setback led the Army to search for a new lead-free slug material and prompted the Marine Corps, which was interested in the M855A1, to go with SOCOM’s new 5.56mm round instead.
“We put our money toward SOST because of the lead-free failure,” said Chief Warrant Officer-5 Jeffrey Eby, the Corps’ senior gunner. “That lead-free bullet in the last six months just fell apart on them under extreme heat.”
More accurate round
SOST rounds have similar bal- listics to the M855 round, mean- ing combat troops don’t have to adjust to using the new ammo, military officials say.
Using an open-tip match round design common with some sniper ammunition, SOST rounds are designed to stay on target better than existing M855 rounds after penetrating windshields, car doors and other objects.
Compared with the M855, SOST rounds also stay on target longer in open air and have increased stopping power, according to Navy Department documents obtained by Marine Corps Times.
At 62 grains, they weigh about the same as most NATO rounds, have a typical lead core with a solid copper shank and are considered a variation of Federal Cartridge Co.’s Federal Trophy Bonded Bear Claw round, which was developed for big-game hunting and is touted in a company news release for its ability to crush bone.
SOCOM developed the new round, formally known as the MK318 MOD 0, for use with the Special Operations Forces Combat Assault Rifle, or SCAR, which needed a more accurate bullet because its short barrel, at 13.8 inches, is less than an inch shorter than the M4 carbine’s.
SOCOM first fielded the SOST round in April, said Air Force Maj. Wesley Ticer, a spokesman for the command. It also fielded a cousin — MK319 MOD 0 enhanced 7.62mm SOST ammo — designed for use with the SCAR-Heavy, a powerful 7.62mm battle rifle.
SOCOM uses both kinds of ammunition, Ticer said.
The Corps purchased a “couple million” SOST rounds as part of a joint $6 million, 10.4-million round buy in September — enough to last the service several months in Afghanistan, Marine Corps officials said.
Despite the popularity of the SOST, the Army isn’t backing away from its goal to perfect its green M855A1 round.
“SOST is a good round, but SOST is not a lead-free slug,” said Lt. Col. Tom Henthorn, chief of the Small Arms Branch at the Soldier Requirements Division at Fort Benning, Ga.
The Army will continue to develop an environmentally friendly 5.56mm, as well as a lead-free 7.62mm bullet, Henthorn added, “because we care about the environment.”
Small arms training accounts for about 2,000 metric tons of lead going into the environment every year, Army officials say. The Army first began its quest for green ammunition in response to environmental groups that pressured some states to prohibit some National Guard units from using their training ranges.
Run-off from lead-contaminated soil can contaminate water sources that supply communities located near the ranges, environmental groups maintain.
“We do have real reasons why we are doing this,” said Chris Grassano, product manager for Maneuver Ammunition Systems. Grassano, however, did say that the Army does not have a “significant percentage” of training ranges that have been closed because of lead damage to the environment. The latest M855A1 design features a solid copper slug instead of bismuth-tin. During production qualification testing, Army testers will shoot 400,000 rounds of the new version, making the M855A1 “the most tested round we have ever developed,” said Lt. Col. Jeff Woods, product manager for Small and Medium Caliber Ammunition.
The new round addresses the consistency problems of the M855, but Army ballistics officials said “we are not at liberty to compare it to SOST,” Grassano said.
While copper is more expensive than lead, Army officials said they could not provide a cost estimate for the M855A1 compared to the current M855.
If all goes well in testing, the M855A1 will be ready in June in “sufficient quantities to satisfy the needs of theater,” Grassano said. “We are pretty confident that once we get it into soldiers’ hands, they will be satisfied with” the new round.
Staff writer Dan Lamonthe contributed to this report.
Here is a report from February on AccurateShooter about the SOST round.
February 17, 2010
USMC Adopts New Open-tip ‘SOST’ 5.56 Ammo
After learning that M855 NATO ammo does not perform well from short-barreled rifles such as the M4 carbine, the U.S. Marine Corps has started issuing a new type of 5.56×45 ammo to its troops in Afghanistan. The new SOST (Special Operations Science and Technology) ammo, officially designated MK 318 MOD 0 “Cartridge, Caliber 5.56mm Ball, Carbine, Barrier”, features a different open-tip 62mm bullet. The new bullet, with a lead core (in the top half) and solid copper bottom half, is similar to hunting bullets such as Federal’s Trophy Bonded Bear Claw. The SOST bullet was designed by Federal/ATK, which will produce the loaded ammunition.
The new SOST ammo was first developed for use by SOCOM (Special Operations) in the SCAR rifle, which has a short, 13.8″ barrel. Even in short-barreled rifles, the SOST provides impressive ballistics — achieving 2925 fps in a 14″ barrel. Compared to M855 ball ammo, SOST rounds are more lethal when shot from short-barreled rifles. According to the Marine Times, SOST ammunition delivers “consistent, rapid fragmentation which shortens the time required to cause incapacitation of enemy combatants”. Using an open-tip design common with some sniper ammunition, SOST rounds are designed to be “barrier blind”, meaning they stay on target better than existing M855 rounds after penetrating windshields, car doors and other objects. This is important to troops in the Middle Eastern theater who must engage insurgents inside vehicles or hiding behind barriers.
In Afghanistan, the USMC will issue SOST ammo for both the short-barreled M4 carbine as well as the original, full-length M16A4. The Corps purchased a “couple million” SOST rounds as part of a joint $6 million, 10.4-million-round buy in September — enough to last the service several months in Afghanistan.
M855 Criticized by Ground Troops and Pentagon Testers
The standard Marine 5.56 round, the M855, was developed in the 1970s and approved as an official NATO round in 1980. In recent years, however, it has been the subject of widespread criticism from troops, who question whether it has enough punch to stop oncoming enemies.
In 2002, shortcomings in the M855′s performance were detailed in a report by Naval Surface Warfare Center Crane, Ind., according to Navy Department documents. Additional testing in 2005 showed shortcomings. The Pentagon issued a request to industry for improved ammunition the following year.
Here is the article from Marine Corps Times:
Corps to use more lethal ammo in Afghanistan
By Dan Lamothe - Staff writer
Posted : Tuesday Feb 16, 2010 9:29:10 EST
The Marine Corps is dropping its conventional 5.56mm ammunition in Afghanistan in favor of new deadlier, more accurate rifle rounds, and could field them at any time.
The open-tipped rounds until now have been available only to Special Operations Command troops. The first 200,000 5.56mm Special Operations Science and Technology rounds are already downrange with Marine Expeditionary Brigade-Afghanistan, said Brig. Gen. Michael Brogan, commander of Marine Corps Systems Command. Commonly known as “SOST” rounds, they were legally cleared for Marine use by the Pentagon in late January, according to Navy Department documents obtained by Marine Corps Times.
SOCom developed the new rounds for use with the Special Operations Force Combat Assault Rifle, or SCAR, which needed a more accurate bullet because its short barrel, at 13.8 inches, is less than an inch shorter than the M4 carbine’s. Using an open-tip match round design common with some sniper ammunition, SOST rounds are designed to be “barrier blind,” meaning they stay on target better than existing M855 rounds after penetrating windshields, car doors and other objects.
Compared to the M855, SOST rounds also stay on target longer in open air and have increased stopping power through “consistent, rapid fragmentation which shortens the time required to cause incapacitation of enemy combatants,” according to Navy Department documents. At 62 grains, they weigh about the same as most NATO rounds, have a typical lead core with a solid copper shank and are considered a variation of Federal Cartridge Co.’s Federal Trophy Bonded Bear Claw round, which was developed for big-game hunting and is touted in a company news release for its ability to crush bone.
The Corps purchased a “couple million” SOST rounds as part of a joint $6 million, 10.4-million-round buy in September — enough to last the service several months in Afghanistan, Brogan said. Navy Department documents say the Pentagon will launch a competition worth up to $400 million this spring for more SOST ammunition.
“This round was really intended to be used in a weapon with a shorter barrel, their SCAR carbines,” Brogan said. “But because of its blind-to-barrier performance, its accuracy improvements and its reduced muzzle flash, those are attractive things that make it also useful to general purpose forces like the Marine Corps and Army.”
The standard Marine round, the M855, was developed in the 1970s and approved as an official NATO round in 1980. In recent years, however, it has been the subject of widespread criticism from troops, who question whether it has enough punch to stop oncoming enemies.
In 2002, shortcomings in the M855’s performance were detailed in a report by Naval Surface Warfare Center Crane, Ind., according to Navy Department documents. Additional testing in 2005 showed shortcomings. The Pentagon issued a request to industry for improved ammunition the following year. Federal Cartridge was the only company to respond.
Brogan said the Corps has no plans to remove the M855 from the service’s inventory at this time. However, the service has determined it “does not meet USMC performance requirements” in an operational environment in which insurgents often lack personal body armor, but engage troops through “intermediate barriers” such as windshields and car doors at security checkpoints, according to a Jan. 25 Navy Department document clearing Marines to use the SOST round.
The document, signed by J.R. Crisfield, director of the Navy Department International and Operational Law Division, is clear on the recommended course of action for the 5.56mm SOST round, formally known as MK318 MOD 0 enhanced 5.56mm ammunition.
“Based on the significantly improved performance of the MK318 MOD 0 over the M855 against virtually every anticipated target array in Afghanistan and similar combat environments where increased accuracy, better effects behind automobile glass and doors, consistent terminal performance and reduced muzzle flash are critical to mission accomplishment, USMC would treat the MK318 MOD 0 as its new 5.56mm standard issue cartridge,” Crisfield wrote.
The original plan called for the SOST round to be used specifically within the M4 carbine, which has a 14½-inch barrel and is used by tens of thousands of Marines in military occupational specialties such as motor vehicle operator where the M16A4’s longer barrel can be cumbersome. Given its benefits, however, Marine officials decided also to adopt SOST for the M16A4, which has a 20-inch barrel and is used by most of the infantry.
In addition to operational benefits, SOST rounds have similar ballistics to the M855 round, meaning Marines will not have to adjust to using the new ammo, even though it is more accurate.
“It does not require us to change our training,” Brogan said. “We don’t have to change our aim points or modify our training curriculum. We can train just as we have always trained with the 855 round, so right now, there is no plan to completely remove the 855 from inventory.”
Marine officials in Afghanistan could not be reached for comment, but Brogan said commanders with MEB-A are authorized to issue SOST ammo to any subordinate command. Only one major Marine 5.56mm weapon system downrange will not use SOST: the M249 squad automatic weapon. Though the new rounds fit the SAW, they are not currently produced in the linked fashion commonly employed with the light machine gun, Brogan said.
SOCom first fielded the SOST round in April, said Air Force Maj. Wesley Ticer, a spokesman for the command. It also fielded a cousin — MK319 MOD 0 enhanced 7.62mm SOST ammo — designed for use with the SCAR-Heavy, a powerful 7.62mm battle rifle. SOCom uses both kinds of ammunition in all of its geographic combatant commands, Ticer said.
The Corps has no plans to buy 7.62mm SOST ammunition, but that could change if operational commanders or infantry requirements officers call for it in the future, Brogan said.
It is uncertain how long the Corps will field the SOST round. Marine officials said last summer that they took interest in it after the M855A1 lead-free slug in development by the Army experienced problems during testing, but Brogan said the service is still interested in the environmentally friendly round if it is effective. Marine officials also want to see if the price of the SOST round drops once in mass production. The price of an individual round was not available, but Brogan said SOST ammo is more expensive than current M855 rounds.
“We have to wait and see what happens with the Army’s 855LFS round,” he said. “We also have to get very good cost estimates of where these [SOST] rounds end up in full-rate, or serial production. Because if it truly is going to remain more expensive, then we would not want to buy that round for all of our training applications.”
Before the SOST round could be fielded by the Corps, it had to clear a legal hurdle: approval that it met international law of war standards.
The process is standard for new weapons and weapons systems, but it took on added significance because of the bullet’s design. Open-tip bullets have been approved for use by U.S. forces for decades, but are sometimes confused with hollow-point rounds, which expand in human tissue after impact, causing unnecessary suffering, according to widely accepted international treaties signed following the Hague peace conventions held in the Netherlands in 1899 and 1907.
“We need to be very clear in drawing this distinction: This is not a hollow-point round, which is not permitted,” Brogan said. “It has been through law of land warfare review and has passed that review so that it meets the criteria of not causing unnecessary pain and suffering.”
The open-tip/hollow-point dilemma has been addressed several times by the military, including in 1990, when the chief of the Judge Advocate General International Law Branch, now-retired Marine Col. W. Hays Parks, advised that the open-tip M852 Sierra MatchKing round preferred by snipers met international law requirements. The round was kept in the field.
In a 3,000-word memorandum to Army Special Operations Command, Parks said “unnecessary suffering” and “superfluous injury” have not been formally defined, leaving the U.S. with a “balancing test” it must conduct to assess whether the usage of each kind of rifle round is justified.
“The test is not easily applied,” Parks said. “For this reason, the degree of ‘superfluous injury’ must … outweigh substantially the military necessity for the weapon system or projectile.”
John Cerone, an expert in the law of armed conflict and professor at the New England School of Law, said the military’s interpretation of international law is widely accepted. It is understood that weapons cause pain in war, and as long as there is a strategic military reason for their employment, they typically meet international guidelines, he said.
“In order to fall within the prohibition, a weapon has to be designed to cause unnecessary suffering,” he said.
Sixteen years after Parks issued his memo, an Army unit in Iraq temporarily banned the open-tip M118 long-range used by snipers after a JAG officer mistook it for hollow-tip ammunition, according to a 2006 Washington Times report. The decision was overturned when other Army officials were alerted.
So what can we conclude from all this? It would seem that the Army has wasted millions on a "green, environmentally friendly" round that is less capable than the Marine and SpecOps SOST round. I don't know about you, but I want my son to have the best, most lethal ammo our tax dollars can buy. Wasteful, dangerous green-weenie bastards.