Latest updates[?]: The US Army is buying more sniper rifles for its troops. Knights Armaments will deliver an unspecified number of M110 semi-automatic sniper rifles at a cost of $16.5 million. The M110 is a lightweight, semi-automatic, air-cooled, gas-operated, magazine-fed, shoulder-fired weapon that fires NATO-standard ammunition. The M110 Semi-Automatic Sniper System (SASS) has been in service since 2008. Work locations and funding will be determined with each order. Deliveries are expected to end by November 20, 2024.
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…
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.
Latest updates[?]: South Africa’s Defense Minister announced plans to update the country’s indigenous Rooivalk attack helicopter. Speaking at this year's African Aerospace & Defence Show, Nosiviwe Masipa-Nqakula said the helicopter has "blooded" itself having carried out a series of successful operations as part of the United Nations’ peacekeeping missions in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Manufacturer Denel is also working on marketing the helicopter to other African governments who are fighting insurgencies, namely Nigeria and Egypt, and further afield governments like India and Brazil.
Base, Bleeding Out?
Back in July 2005 it was apparent India’s sanctions against Denel and possible disqualification from a $2 billion artillery contract could have a major effect on the South African defense firm as a whole. In August 2005, those sanctions came to pass, barring Denel from a contract it was likely to win and accelerating efforts already underway to radically restructure the firm.
CEO Shaun Liebenberg launched that shift in late 2005 with some frank discussion of the global defense market, and the position of small-medium players like Denel in it. At DSEI 2005 in London, UK, the outline of this new strategy was already apparent. Many of the products Denel is known for will no longer define the firm. But could it find a way to stanch the bleeding and survive in a globalized market?
Faced with an enemy that has no compunctions about committing war crimes by using human shields, allied armies are discovering that snipers are a critical battlefield asset. Afghanistan is an excellent sniper spot for other reasons as well, including its long stretches of rocky, dusty terrain with very little cover. It’s no coincidence that US Soldiers from Task Force Fury in Afghanistan became the first unit in a combat zone to receive the USA’s new XM110 7.62mm semi-automatic sniper rifle. Larger ‘Big Mac’ .50 cal/ 12.7mm sniper rifles have also been used to considerable effect by Canadian Forces, including the longest deliberate sniper kill in history (2473 meters/ 2705 yards), during the battle of Tora Bora (Operation Anaconda).
Now Britain’s broader GBP 11 million (about $22.6 million) Sniper System Improvement program aims to give UK snipers more power, precision and stealth than ever before. It will include all-weather new advanced day and night sights for all-hours, all-conditions effectiveness; laser technology for accurate range finding and location to distant targets, and a new gun…
Years of unswerving pressure from the Colombian army wore down the narco-terrorist FARC. Much of that pressure was led by the popular (former) President Uribe, who ruled out a bid for constitutional amendments and an attempt at a 3rd term of office in 2009. His legacy continued, however, thanks to a special 2006 tax was set up to back those military gains with about $4 billion worth of military hardware.
Colombia’s El Tiempo newspaper reported that the deals were set to include a wide variety of equipment from American, French, German, Israeli, and Russian suppliers. Colombia is well into the delivery phase, and has added key equipment buys along the way.
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.
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.
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…
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.
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.