May 02, 2013 15:14 UTC
Latest updates[?]: Army wants to cancel the competition; Pentagon Inspector General's involvement not a positive reflection on the office; Article formatting upgrades make milestones and key events clearer.
An M4 – or is it?
The 5.56mm M-16 has been the USA’s primary battle rifle since the Vietnam war, undergoing changes into progressive versions like the M16A4 widely fielded by the US Marine Corps, “Commando” carbine versions, etc. The M4 Carbine is the latest member of the M16 family, offering a shorter weapon more suited to close-quarters battle, or to units who would find a full-length rifle too bulky.
In 2006 an Army solicitation for competitive procurement of 5.56mm carbine designs was withdrawn, once sole-source incumbent Colt dropped its prices. The DoD’s Inspector General weighed in with a critical report, but the Army dissented, defending its practices as a sound negotiating approach that saved the taxpayers money. As it turns out, there’s a sequel. A major sequel that has only grown bigger with time.
The M4/M16 family is both praised and criticized for its current performance in the field. In recent years, the M4 finished dead last in a sandstorm reliability test, against 3 competitors that include a convertible M4 variant. Worse, the 4th place M4 had over 3.5x more jams than the 3rd place finisher. Was that a blip in M4 buys, or a breaking point? DID explains the effort, the issues, and the options, as the Army moves forward with an “Individual Carbine” competition. But will it actually replace the M4?
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Nov 13, 2012 14:41 UTC
Latest updates[?]: IAR completing integration into the Corps, as M249 fades.
M27 IAR, Afghanistan
The US Marines have been using the M249 5.56mm light machine gun since 1984. Many were worn from use, and at 15-17 pounds empty, these belt-fed weapons are rather heavy. They can be more hindrance than help in some of the close-quarters urban warfare situations dominating current battlefields, especially since they have a reputation of jamming more often than standard rifles.
Their initial 2005 FedBizOps.com solicitation for an “Infantry Automatic Rifle” (IAR) wanted two big things. First, the gun had to fire from either the open or closed bolt position. This would give it the single-shot and “first through the door” capabilities that the M249 lacks, while allowing for more sustained fire than an M16 can handle without risking ammunition “cook off” in a heated barrel. It also had to be considerably lighter than the M249, at just 12.5 pounds maximum and 10.5 pounds desired weight. In exchange, the Marines decided they were willing to trade the SAW’s belt-fed design for switchable 30 round magazines, which are used up much more quickly but can be changed in battle much more quickly.
The result was not a true light machine gun, but something in between an LMG and an assault rifle. That shift in the 13-man Marine squad has its advocates and detractors. DID offers more background concerning the USMC’s IAR contenders, contracts… and controversy.
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Sep 20, 2012 15:55 UTC
Beretta 92/M9, firing
In September 2012, Beretta USA Corp. in Accokeek, MD received a 5-year, $64 million firm-fixed-price contract for up to 100,000 of their M9 9mm Pistols. All of the pistols will be manufactured at the Beretta USA facility in Maryland, where an American work force of nearly 300 employees has been making M9 pistols since 1987, and will now continue doing so until Sept 8/17. The bid was solicited through the Internet, with 4 bids received. The U.S. Army Contracting Command in Warren, MI manages this contract (W56HZV-12-D-0011). Beretta USA adds that:
“We are very proud to continue supplying the M9 pistols to the U.S. Army… and we look forward to the opportunity of working with the Army to improve the current M9 design with many of the existing solutions available to us in the new Model 92A1 [USMC] and 96A1 pistol families”.
Beretta’s M9 is the standard sidearm pistol for the US military, with over 600,000 pistols delivered to date. SOCOM operators can use other pistols, and the US Marines’ MARSOC special forces formally decided to go back to the stopping power of Colt’s .45 caliber pistol in July 2012. Even so, Colt will need to fix some of the guns’ failures if they want wider adoption in the Corps.
Feb 26, 2012 11:31 UTC
Latest updates: 2 small U206 submarines added?
FAC Kfir C7
(click to view larger)
Colombia’s narco-terrorist FARC army has reportedly lost some of its military shine recently, thanks to years of unswerving pressure from the Colombian army. Much of that pressure has been led by the popular President Uribe, who has apparently ruled out a bid for constitutional amendments and an attempt at a 3rd term of office. Before his 2010 exit, however, a special tax levied in 2006 is set to finance about $4 billion worth of military hardware, and add stronger backing to those military gains.
Colombia’s El Tiempo newspaper reports that the deals are meant to solidify and modernize the military, and will include a wide variety of equipment from American, French, German, Israeli, and Russian suppliers. Key deliveries have now begun.
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Jun 21, 2011 19:30 UTC
M4 carbine, firing
Guest Article by Daniel E. Watters
On June 14/11, the US Army released a pre-solicitation notice for the procurement of approximately 70,000 to 100,000 M4 and M4A1 carbines in a best value competition (W56HZV-10-R-0593). This represents the first time that the procurement of the M4/M4A1 has not been limited to Colt Defense. How was this point reached, exactly what are the Army’s options, and how that may affect the Individual Carbine competition?
There’s still a very good chance that the competition for a new replacement rifle will meet the fate of previous competitions, and the Army will continue to buy the M4…
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Jun 16, 2011 13:06 UTC
FN Manufacturing, LLC in Columbia, SC received a $28.1 million firm-fixed-price contract for 3,053 of their M240L 7.62mm general purpose machine guns. Work will be performed in Columbia, SC, with an estimated completion date of Sept 30/12. One bid was solicited with one bid accepted by the U.S. Army Contracting Command in Picatinny Arsenal, NJ (W15QKN-09-C-0108).
The M240 is widely used within NATO, and aside from a few carrying annoyances, it’s a good gun: reliable, with good accuracy and rate of fire. It can be mounted on vehicles and helicopters, or carried on foot, and the gun is convertible between these modes. The M240 has moved into a more central role with US forces in Afghanistan, where engagements often take place at 300+ meter ranges. At those ranges, the platoon’s M240 GPMGs and 7.62mm designated marksman rifles may be the only truly effective guns they have. Fortunately, the M240L improves on the M240B by using titanium alloy in key sections, with a chrome carbo-nitride coating to resist galling, and a ceramic-based top coat. The result? Same gun, but at 22.3 pounds/ 10.1 kg, it weighs 5 pounds/ 2.27 kg less. At about $9,200 a pop, they aren’t cheap. Still, when you’re humping your M240L over 5,000+ foot total elevation changes in the course of a day, at medium to high altitudes, it feels like money well spent.
Mar 02, 2011 16:05 UTC
As Rosvertol General Director Boris Slyusar announced the firm’s 2010 trading figures, he revealed that a fall 2010 deal had been signed with Azerbaijan for 24 Mi-35 attack helicopters. That would more than double the current fleet of 12-13 Mi-24s at Baku Kala air base, and make “Hind family” helicopters the backbone of Azerbailjan’s rotary-wing force. Newer Russian attack helicopters like the Mi-28 “Night Hunter” and Ka-52 “Alligator” get a lot of attention, but the Mi-24 “Hind/Krokodil” family of heavy helicopter gunships remains broadly popular around the world, with a secondary troop transport capability that’s unique in the market. News.Az.
Azerbaijan is located on the Caspian Sea, south of Russia, north of Iran, and east of Armenia. A highly-charged territorial dispute with Armenia remains a source of tension, as does protection of the country’s significant oil & natural gas infrastructure, and the possibility of meddling from its larger neighbors north and south. The country is busy building a defense industry of its own, and has pursued close cooperation and joint ventures with a number of foreign countries including Israel, Pakistan, Russia/Ukraine, and Turkey. Beyond its helicopter forces, recent cooperation discussions have involved 9mm Czech Skorpion EVO-III submarchine guns, Russian GAZ 2975 Tigr HMMWV class vehicles, and Pakistani designs for air-dropped bombs.
Jan 08, 2011 14:44 UTC
M24 sniper system
Snipers have become critical assets in the current wars, and enemies who routinely use human shields have changed their profession from a group that was stigmatized even in their own armies, to widely appreciated specialists. In Afghanistan, the rifles’ 7.62mm or heavier calibers, and long range in an environment that routinely sees engagements beyond 300 meters, makes snipers very desirable in regular engagements, as well as special missions.
Remington Arms Company Inc. in Ilion, NY recently received an $8.9 million firm-fixed-price contract from the Afghan government for M24 sniper rifles (and see weapon review), with bipods for stable shooting. Work will be performed in Ilion, NY, and is expected to be complete by Sept 30/14. One bid was solicited with one bid received by the U.S. Army TACOM LCMC in Rock Island, IL (W56HZV-11-D-0049).
Sniper rifles are tracked more closely than other weapons, and American forces in Iraq and beyond have consistently pushed for general weapon tracking programs that allow tight monitoring of access and use. One hopes this is enough to avoid having this order end up as a de facto delivery to the Taliban and al-Qaeda, for use in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Nov 30, 2010 14:10 UTC
5.56mm Mk46 MOD1
FN Manufacturing in Columbia, SC received an $11.5 million firm-fixed-price, indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract for the MK46 MOD1 lightweight machine gun and MK48 MOD1 lightweight machine gun, along with spare and repair parts in support of the U.S. Special Operations Command. Work will be performed in Columbia, SC, and is expected to be complete by November 2015. $25,000 will expire at the end of the current fiscal year, on Sept 30/11. FN is the only firm that makes these weapons, so this contract was not competitively procured by the Naval Surface Warfare Center, Crane Division in Crane, IN (N00164-11-D-JN65).
Both the MK46 LMG and MK48 lightweight GPMG are designed specifically for US special ops requirements. The Mk46 is a variant of the ubiquitous 5.56mm M249 “Minimi” Squad Automatic Weapon, but adds some features and removes about a pound of weight. The Mk48 is a heavier 7.62mm variant, whose longer lethal range is very useful in environments like Afghanistan.
Jun 09, 2010 14:30 UTC
XM110 Rifle, firing:
vid. 2nd one back
In this war, snipers matter in close-quarters urban fights. So does penetrating power. Accurate ranged lethality is equally important for squads in open areas, where engagement distances can easily make 5.56mm rounds ineffective. Bolt-action sniper rifles solve these problems, but can get your best people killed in close-up automatic firefights. Semi-automatic weapons have traditionally been less reliable and accurate, but offer the only reasonable approach that covers both extremes.
The result has been the emergence of a hybrid approach, on both a people level and a technical level. On the human end, militaries like the Americans and British are adopting “designated marksman” or “sharpshooter” roles in normal infantry squads, who aren’t full snipers but do have additional training and qualification. On the technical side, gun makers are fielding semi-automatic systems that offer nearly bolt-action accuracy out to 800-1000 meters, but can also be used in closer-quarters firefights. The British have hurried the L129A1 to their infantry squad sharpshooters, but the Americans have a longer running program, which is beginning to ramp up production and fielding…
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