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This summer soldiers will start fighting with a new, "green" bullet that Army ballistics officials are touting as "the best general purpose 5.56mm round ever."

The Army has begun shipping the M855A1 Enhanced Performance Round to soldiers serving in Afghanistan, according to a June 23 press release from Picatinny Arsenal, N.J.

The announcement comes 11 months after the service had to halt the program when the M855A1 lead-free slug failed to perform under high temperatures.

The new M855A1 will replace the current 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. They complain it is ineffective against barriers such as car windshields and often travels right through unarmored insurgents, with less than lethal effects.

The M855A1 has a "number of significant enhancements not found in the current round. These include improved hard-target capability, more dependable, consistent performance at all distances, improved accuracy, reduced muzzle flash and a higher velocity," the press release stated.

"During testing, the M855A1 performed better than current 7.62mm ball ammunition against certain types of targets, blurring the performance differences that previously separated the two rounds."

The Army has recently completed the Limited Rate Initial Production phase for the M855A1 and is beginning the follow-on full rate production phase in which they plan to procure more than 200 millions rounds over the next 12 to 15 months.

Unlike the current round, the M855A1 is designed for use in the M4 carbine, which has a 14.5-inch barrel compared to the M16's 20-inch barrel.

The Enhanced Performance Round contains an environmentally friendly projectile that eliminates up to 2,000 tons of lead from the manufacturing process each year in direct support of Army commitment to environmental stewardship, the release states.

"Its fielding represents the most significant advancement in general purpose small caliber ammunition in decades," Lt. Col. Jeffrey K. Woods, the program's product manager, said in the release.