US Special Operations Command’s quest for new armor-piercing sniper round

Eager to satisfy the Special Operations Command’s (SOCOM) appetite for technological innovation and improved efficiency, researchers are developing a new armor-piercing sniper round.

During the National Defense Industries Association Armaments Symposium (NDIAAS), researchers with the Crane Division of the Naval Surface Warfare Center (NAVSEA) had the opportunity to present their ideas and show the progress they’ve made on the development of these armor-piercing sniper rounds.

Their primary concerns have to do with the projectile’s cost, effect on rifle barrels, and uniformity. What they have come up with is the Aeroshell projectile. The Aeroshell uses a tungsten penetrator—similar to those used by armor-piercing projectiles like anti-tank missiles—jacketed in a polymer shell casing as opposed to the more traditional copper jacket.

NAVSEA researchers are planning to manufacture approximately 150 Aeroshell armor-piercing rounds in the following three calibers: .338 Norma Magnum, .300 Norma Magnum, and 6.5 Creedmoor. To gauge effectiveness, they will test the rounds against personal body armor at different ranges (100, 400, 800, and 1,000 meters).

The purpose of the round, according to one of the presentation slides used during the briefing, is to “provide snipers and advanced marksmen with the capability of shooting low-cost armor-piercing projectiles that will safely pass through suppressors, muzzle-brakes, and flash-hiders. [It will] greatly reduce sniper-barrel wear [and] provide all war-fighters with new ammunition that will extend barrel life and be environmentally friendly.”

Although the last point must have certainly raised some eyebrows—combat operations are probably one of the more harmful things to the environment—the statement of purpose anticipates the improved personal protection capabilities that troops of potential adversaries, such as China and Russia, may have. Hitherto, snipers have resorted to using the Barrett M107 .50 BMG sniper rifle to ensure armor-piercing results. But the M107 is an anti-material rifle and its use against anti-personnel targets is somewhat overkill.

Recently, Barrett Firearms Manufacturing won a five-year contract to produce the Advanced Sniper Rifle (ASR) for SOCOM. The award is worth approximately $50 million and is expected to be fulfilled by March 2023.

The ASR is a modular, bolt-action sniper rifle that can be outfitted with a number of different barrels, thereby adjusting its caliber according to the situation. It has an effective range of at least 1,500 meters and can be chambered in 7.62x51mm NATO, .300 Norma Magnum, or .338 Norma Magnum calibers.

NAVSEA Crane is one of the 10 command locations of the Naval Surface Warfare Center (NSWC). Alongside its sister locations, NAVSEA Crane is responsible for assessing capability gaps in the U.S. military and coming up with technological solutions.

This article was written by Stavros Atlamazoglou at NEWSREP

Feature image: (U.S. Army photo by Visual Information Specialist Jason Johnston/Released)