To outrange and hit adversaries in future missions on what the Pentagon thinks will be a more competitive battlefield, special operators will require a plethora of small guns, ammo, and explosive devices.

On Tuesday at the SOF Week conference in Florida, Lt. Col. John “Tosh” Lancaster, program manager for US Special Operations Command’s lethality purchases, ran through the list of needs, from machine guns to suppressors and ammunition.

“Does our weapons system outrange an enemy weapons system when put to the test?” Is it more precise?” Lancaster explained. “If you look at what we have on the battlefield right now, we can’t say that in every category.”

Lancaster stated that the lightweight medium machine gun, a.338 Norma Magnum weapon, will enter service in fiscal 2026. However, users will still require accessories and a new set of ammo for the weapon. To observe distant targets, the machine gun will require a dedicated optic.

Lancaster also advocated for nighttime range finders for snipers, without providing specifics.

The lightweight machine gun-assault — a lighter version of the still-in-development lightweight medium machine gun — is intended to replace the legacy 5.56mm Squad Automatic Weapon, which has been in service for decades. The caliber is yet to be determined, however Lancaster has hinted that 6.5mm is leading the pack.

In addition, the command is looking for new suppressors for machine guns and rifle/carbine small arms. He stated that all suppressors must reduce flash, sound, heat, and round disruption.

Straight-line bullets, however, cannot arc over berms, walls, or hills like mortars. Furthermore, he highlighted that mortars and low-flying, specialised drones are not always an option; when they are, they are an expensive means to eliminate a target.

“We have all kinds of things to kill behind the berms,” Lancaster explained. “We don’t have a squad-level, low-cost option.”

He indicated the necessity for a weapon that could be comfortably carried on a three-day foot patrol while yet getting the job done.

But every now and then, a different kind of boom is on the menu. While elite operators are experts at breaching obstacles, they want something much more advanced. The military intends to modernize its breaching and demolition kits with new remote firing devices and slap charges, which are strips of explosive that can be quickly “slapped” on an obstacle to penetrate in one blast.

Essentially, the command desires more effective and yielding bombs.


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