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The Marine Corps intends to purchase 1.8 million rounds of the Army’s new green bullet in addition to the millions of U.S. Special Operations Command cartridges already downrange as the service looks to find the best replacement for its Cold War-era ammo.

The new environmentally friendly M855A1 Enhanced Performance Round is on the way to U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan, Army officials said, with about 1 million rounds arriving soon. The updated 5.56mm round is touted as more effective than old M855 ammunition and, in some cases, 7.62mm rounds currently in use.

The new M855A1 will be used by the Army to replace the Cold War-era M855 round, which was developed in the 1970s and approved as an official NATO round in 1980. In recent years, troops have widely criticized it, saying it is ineffective against barriers such as car windshields and often travels right through unarmored insurgents, with less-than-lethal effects.

The Army plans to buy about 200 million rounds of the new ammunition over the next 12 to 15 months, Army officials said late last month. The announcement came 11 months after the service had to halt the program when the M855A1 lead-free slug failed to perform under high temperatures.

The lead-free M855A1 is more dependable than the current M855 and delivers consistent performance at all distances, Army officials said. It performed better than the current-issue 7.62mm round against hardened steel targets in testing, penetrating æ-inch-thick steel at ranges approaching 400 meters, tripling the performance of the M855, Army officials said.

“For hardened steel, it is definitely better than the 7.62mm round,” said Chris Grassano, who runs the Army’s Project Manager Maneuver Ammunition Systems.

The Corps had planned to field the Army’s M855A1 until the program suffered a major setback in August 2009, when testing revealed that some of the bullets did not follow their trajectory or intended flight path. The bismuth-tin slug proved to be sensitive to heat, prompting Marine officials to choose the enhanced Special Operations Science and Technology round developed by U.S. Special Operations Command instead. Commonly known as SOST ammo, the bullet isn’t environmentally friendly, but it offered the Corps a better bullet after the Army’s M855A1 round failed. Marine infantrymen began using it in Afghanistan this spring.

The Army has replaced the bismuth-tin slug in its new round with a copper one, solving the bullet’s problems, Army officials said. More than 500,000 rounds have been fired in testing.

Source: Dan Lamothe and Matthew Cox for Marine Corps Times

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