Latest updates[?]: Colt's Manufacturing Company is being contracted to maintain the US Army's inventory of M4 and M4A1 rifles. The contract is valued at $88.6 million and funded through FY2019 and FY2020 operations and maintenance funds. The M4 offers a collapsible buttstock, flat-top upper receiver assembly, a U-shaped handle-rear sight assembly that could be removed, and assortment of mounting rails for easy customization with a variety of sight, flashlight, grenade launchers, shotgun attachments and so forth. It's the successor to the M-16 with which it shares a 85% commonality. The M4A1 is the special operations version of the M4 that's been in use for more than a decade. It features a heavier barrel and a full-auto trigger. Work will be performed at Colt's factory in West Hartford, Connecticut. The contract is set to run through September 25, 2020.
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In 2006 an Army solicitation for competitive procurement of 5.56mm carbine designs was withdrawn, once sole-source incumbent Colt dropped its prices.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? The Army moved forward with an “Individual Carbine” competition, but as the results started to show the M4 again lagging – even with ammunition changed to a round specially formulated to make the M4 shine – the Army abruptly stopped the process once again, stating that the performance superiority of the competing gun was not better to a degree making it worthwhile. The Army stated after the tests that only a result that was twice as good as the existing gun’s performance would signify an actionable performance difference.
More recently, the Marines have considered adding various after-market upgrades to the platform in order to increase accuracy, learning from the private sector and competitive shooting circuit what appears to be providing the best bang.
Canadian Forces took some of the lessons re-learned during Operation Medusa in Afghanistan, directly to heart. Canada’s DND:
“The heavily protected direct fire capability of a main battle tank is an invaluable tool in the arsenal of any military. The intensity of recent conflicts in Central Asia and the Middle East has shown western militaries that tanks provide protection that cannot be matched by more lightly armored wheeled vehicles… [Canada’s existing Leopard C2/1A5] tanks have also provided the Canadian Forces (CF) with the capability to travel to locations that would otherwise be inaccessible to wheeled light armoured vehicles, including Taliban defensive positions.”
In October 2003, Canada was set to buy the Styker/LAV-III 105mm Mobile Gun System to replace its Leopard C2 tanks. By 2007, however, the lessons of war took Canada down a very different path – one that led them to renew the very tank fleet they were once intent on scrapping, while backing away from the wheeled vehicles that were once the cornerstone of the Canadian Army’s transformation plan. This updated article includes a full chronology for Canada’s new Leopard 2 tanks, adds information concerning DND’s exact plans and breakdowns for their new fleet, and discusses front-line experiences in Afghanistan.
In late November 2008, Canada’s Department of National Defence (DND) announced its intention to combine 3 programs into one general set of upgrades to its armored vehicle fleets. The C$ 5 billion meta-program would include:
(1) “Close Combat Vehicles” that perform as tracked Infantry Fighting Vehicles or Armored Personnel Carriers, alongside Canada’s new Leopard 2A6 tanks. Canada’s wheeled LAV-IIIs showed limitations in Afghanistan. Canada’s old M113 tracked APCs were a successful supplement, but the Canadians appear to be leaning toward a heavier vehicle for their future CCV. (2) A new “Tactical Armored Patrol Vehicle” that’s similar to the blast-resistant vehicle buys in other NATO countries. (3) LAV-UP upgrades to the existing LAV-III 8×8 wheeled APC fleet completed the set. July 2009 saw the roster expand to add (4) “FME”: dedicated Armored Engineering Vehicles based on the Leopard 2 tank, and engineering-related attachments for Canada’s new Leopard 2 tanks.
The “Close Combat Vehicle” appeared to be the most urgent purchase, but Canada’s procurement approach wasn’t structured to deliver urgency, and CCV has suffered the most from that failure. CCV is now the last unresolved contract, but all 4 sub-programs failed to deliver vehicles in time to help Canada in Afghanistan. Even so, all 4 programs continue to move forward.
In 2006 GD was contracted to repackage A-10 ammo for AC-130 Gunships. As is so often the case, there’s a story behind the story. The USA’s fearsome AC-130U “Spooky” Hercules gunships were having their old 40mm Bofors cannons and 25mm GAU-12 gatling guns removed, and replaced with ATK’s 30mm MK44 autocannons.
It didn’t go very well. In the end, accuracy and operational needs trumped standardization, and the 40mm and 25mm guns had to go back in…
ARTHUR on Bv206: Fading away? (click to view larger)
Fire location radars are valuable in high-end wars against heavy artillery and rocket salvos, and in counter-insurgency conflicts where incoming mortars and simpler rockets are a frequent hazard. While artillery tracking systems have existed for decades, tracking very small, fast-moving projectiles is no easy task. False positives can be a problem during a high-end war in Germany’s Fulda Gap, but they become a bigger problem during counter-insurgency campaigns.
Canada has some radars of this type already, but their limitations were starting to chafe, and a new contract for counter-battery radars could be the result. A recent DSCA request adds impetus to that search – but will it come in time to make a difference?
Private investment firm Cerberus Capital Management, LP has reached a $1.5 billion deal to buy the support and security contractor DynCorp International, including the assumption of debt. The purchase price would be $17.55 per share – a 49% premium to the April 9/10 close of $11.75, and 12.4x the FY 2010 consensus forecast of $1.41 earnings per share. A “go shop” provision gives DynCorp 28 days to find a higher and better offer, if it can.
Affiliates of Veritas Capital Fund Management, L.L.C. have already executed a Voting Agreement in favor, swinging an aggregate of 34.9% of the outstanding shares. That level of support will make the deal very difficult to stop.
Note that 12.4x is still a low multiple, when compared to a number of more diversified public competitors like KBR and SAIC. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to compare DynCorp with privately-held security contractor peers like the similarly-controversial Xe (formerly Blackwater), IAP Worldwide Services, Triple Canopy, etc. The result is somewhat predictable…
One complaint heard about the 8×8 wheeled Stryker armored vehicles in Afghanistan was that they had difficulties with the rough, mountainous off-road terrain. The Canadian forces in particular found that their Strykers’ mobility limitations created unacceptable difficulties.
Another complaint about Stryker vehicles is that upgrades designed to address combat needs have been done in a piecemeal fashion. This has resulted in significant inefficiencies, including having to turn off some systems to operate others.
To address Stryker vehicle limitations and overcome the piecemeal approach to vehicle improvements, the US Army TACOM Lifecycle Management Command has undertaken a Stryker modernization program…
Lockheed Martin Integrated Systems in Ellicott City, MD won a $318 million indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quantity time-and-material task order to provide operational support services for the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization (JIEDDO) analytical support teams deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan.
The task order is part of a broader contract (W91CRB-08-D-0024) issued April 25/08 by the US Army Research Development and Engineering Command (RDECOM) to provide operations support services to JIEDDO. Other companies that received JIEDDO support contracts were BAE Systems (W91CRB-08-D-0025), ITT (W91CRB-08-D-0026), and CACI (W91CRB-08-D-0027). Each contract has a maximum value of $453 million.
JIEDDO is responsible for developing and coordinating US Department of Defense efforts to defeat improvised explosive devices (IEDs)…
Saab received a $12.4 million contract from lead integrator General Dynamics Information Technology to produce field simulators and moving and fixed targets for five gunnery ranges for the U.S. Army. The ranges are part of the Army’s Digital Range Training System (DRTS) program that provides live fire gunnery training facilities for soldiers in a training environment using live simulation and after action review capability with position location, video imagery and digital vehicle information. DID has more on the futuristic DRTS program…
As video communications is integrated into robots, soldiers, and UAVs, and network-centric warfare becomes the organizing principle of American warfighting, front-line demands for bandwidth are rising faster than the US military can add it. The Transformation Communications Satellite (TSAT) System is part of a larger effort by the US military to address that need, and close the gap.
DID’s FOCUS articles offer in-depth, updated looks at significant military programs of record – and TSAT is certainly significant. The final price tag on the entire program has been quoted at anywhere from $14-25 billion through 2016, including the satellites, the ground operations system, the satellite operations center and the cost of operations and maintenance. Lockheed Martin and Boeing each won over $600 million in risk reduction contracts to develop key TSAT SS satellite system technologies, and TSAT’s $2 billion TMOS ground-based network operations contract was already underway.
The TSAT constellation’s central role in next-generation US military infrastructure makes it worthy of in-depth treatment – but its survival was never assured. There was always a risk that outside events and incremental competitors could spell its end, just as they spelled the end of Motorola’s infamous Iridium project. This FOCUS article examines that possibility, even as it offers an overview of the US military’s vision for its communications infrastructure, how TSAT fits, the program’s challenges, and complete coverage of contracts and significant events.
The latest developments revolve around the end of the program. Despite a positive recent report from the GAO, TMOS/TSAT are being canceled outright as part of the program’s planned termination: