The South African Army will soon evaluate a new 5.56 mm round developed by Israel Military Industries (IMI) Systems Ltd.
This is according to a source with knowledge of ties between Israel and South Africa.
IMI in February this year announced that it had developed and is manufacturing a new round that combines the advantages of 5.56 and 7.62 mm rounds. This ammunition is already being evaluated by the Israeli Defence Force (IDF).
The new round has been developed by the small calibre ammunition division of IMI, based on the combat experience of the IDF and operational requirements from international clients.
“There is no better place to assess the new operational requirements. The IDF has been fighting in all possible combat scenarios, including some that are unique to the asymmetric fighting that the world is experiencing” an Israeli expert said.
The standard 5.56 round is used in many types of assault rifles, while the 7.62 round is used by many types of light machine guns. Army units have to carry both types of rounds because of their different advantages in various combat scenarios.
The new IMI Armour Piercing Match (APM) round has, according to the company, better accuracy and penetration than the standard 5.56 mm. At the same time, the company says, tests have proven the new round has also better accuracy than the 7.62 mm at ranges of up to 550 meters, and better penetration at ranges of 800 meters.
“This level of performance makes the new 5.56mm APM round an ideal replacement for 7.62 mm thereby enhancing the combat unit’s uniformity in the field as they will need to carry one type of ammunition only,” IMI said.
The new 5.56 APM round is of the FMJ-BT (full metal jacket-boat tailed) hard core APHAC (armour-piercing hard-core) type. Its weight is 73 grains, and the cartridge weight is 12.9 grams. Velocity at 24 meters is 850 m/s.
According to IMI, tests have proved that the new round is 30 % more accurate than 7.62 M80 rounds at a range of 550 meters.
Penetration is also dramatically higher. When fired on a NATO 3.4 mm steel plate the new round achieved 100 % penetration from ranges of 550 and 800 meters.
According to IMI the new round was developed to answer operational requirements of armies that are looking for ammunition commonality while keeping the benefits of the existing two calibres used today.
IMI says that the breakthrough development was achieved by a new design of the bullet, the type of powder and the way the cartridge is attached to the bullet. A new type of primer was also used.
A company source said that the new APM round actually gives the combat soldier the fire power of a platoon.
The new round arrives on the market at a time when the US Marine Corps is looking at new rounds to replace its 5.56 mm M855 round.
If South Africa decides to purchase the new 5.56 mm round it will be a continuation of its light weapon relations with Israel. In the late 1970s the South African National Defense Force (SANDF) was looking for a new weapon to replace its 7.62 mm R1 and R2 . At the time there was a global trend for 5.56 mm weapons. As a result license-produced version of the Israeli Galil made by IMI was adopted as the Vektor R4. The Vektor R4 was produced by Denel.
The Vektor R4 became a standard-issue infantry rifle in service with the SANDF. It is still used to this day. This weapon has been exported to Rwanda and Serbia.
The light weapon division of IMI was purchased by IWI that now manufactures the Tavor assault rifle. The Tavor is used by various units — especially special forces and police SWAT teams — in almost 30 nations. These include several South American, Central American, African and Asian nations, including Colombia, Mexico, Guatemala, Senegal and Nepal. In addition, the nation of Georgia has replaced some of its Kalashnikovs with Tavors. Vietnam and India also use them.
Recent press reports claim that a number of countries in Africa are now evaluating the Israeli assault rifle. A spokesperson for IWI said that the company does not discuss contracts or clients.