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US Army unlikely to change caliber quickly over costs and ballistics specifics — expert

Earlier, reports emerged that the Pentagon plans to create next-generation arms for the 6.8mm instead of the 5.56mm caliber to pierce new Russian and Chinese armor vests reliably

MOSCOW, November 1. /TASS/. The US Army will hardly be able to change its 5.56mm small arms core caliber in the short-and medium-term perspective due to the ammunition’s physical properties and high costs, Editor-in-Chief of the Arsenal of the Fatherland journal Viktor Murakhovsky told TASS on Friday.

The web portal Popular Mechanics earlier reported that the Pentagon plans to create next-generation arms for the 6.8mm instead of the 5.56mm caliber to pierce new Russian and Chinese armor vests reliably.

"The ammunition’s destructive effect is not characterized only by its piercing capacity. The stopping power, the wound tract and the wound cavity are just the bullet’s immediate effects. But another aspect is to see how the bullet travels along its trajectory and how stable it is, including to atmospheric phenomena," Murakhovsky said.

"It all rests on basic physical properties: the ammunition has reached its limit of what the ballistic gunpowder can propel and that’s it," the expert pointed out.

Apart from the round’s properties, the transition to the new caliber is costly from the economic viewpoint, he stressed. "This is the cost of the small arms industry’s switchover to this caliber and [the creation] of mobilization reserves. The number of rounds fired in a big war amounts to billions of cartridges a year. During the Cold War period, when the stake was on the victory of capitalism, all the NATO members switched over from the 7.62mm to the 5.56mm caliber. But what funds will they use now to switch over to the new caliber?" the expert said.

Besides, the stated goal of striking Russia’s and China’s modern individual armor gear has been solved in the existing calibers, he pointed out.

"A round exists for the 5.56mm caliber, which ‘pierces’ any armor vests at a distance of half a kilometer," Murakhovsky said, adding, however, that "its cost is extremely high because its core is made of tungsten carbide" and, therefore, it cannot be mass produced.

The work on changing the small arms caliber is one of the programs that will hardly yield any results in the foreseeable future, the expert pointed out.

"I remember all these next-generation programs [the Next Generation Squad Weapon, the US current program of developing new weapons for the infantry] from the time when I was a lieutenant. And whatever they tried: the 4.7mm caliber, caseless cartridges and rocket bullets. This story will last forever," he said.

Caliber change

The US Department of Defense earlier published details of the Next Generation Squad Weapons national rearmament program. The program stipulates replacing the 5.56mm small arms core caliber in the US Army for the 6.8mm rounds.

The bulletin of the Main Missile and Artillery Department within Russia’s Defense Ministry, which was published in February, considered giving up 5.45mm rounds used in AK-74, AK-12 assault rifles and other small arms operational in the Russian Army.

In the opinion of a group of authors from the Defense Ministry’s 3rd Central Research Institute, the Russian Army may give up using 5.45mm rounds due to the bullets’ insufficient effect to pierce the manpower’s individual protective gear at medium and increased fire ranges.