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.
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.
If fighting in Iraq was mostly about Close Quarters Battle, experience on the ground in Afghanistan is driving home the opposite imperative: marksmanship and lethality at range. US studies like the influential “Taking Back the Infantry Half-Kilometer” are driving that point home, and the trend is leading to shifts like fielding more 7.62mm M240 machine guns in place of 5.56mm M249 Minimis, and doubling the number of 7.62mm M14 EBR rifles per infantry squad to 2.
The British are facing the exact same pressures. After a very poor start, their 5.56mm SA80/ L85 bullpup assault rifles have been improved by an H&K redesign. That may help with jamming and reliability, but it doesn’t change the 5.56mm round’s fundamental ballistic characteristics, like its notable drop-off in lethality beyond 300 meters.
Airtronic USA, Inc. in Elk Grove Village, IL recently announced a 5-year, indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quantity contract from US Army TACOM Rock Island Arsenal, IL. The firm will produce up to 50,000 M203 and M203A2 40mm Grenade Launchers. The contract’s initial $4.55 million order is for 5,266 weapons, which implies that the total order could be worth around $43 million, if all options are exercised (W52H09-10-D-0173).
The front-loading M203 fits under the US military’s rifles, allowing troops to fire a single 40mm grenade, while keeping their rifle ready to fire in normal mode. This is in contrast to single shot “bullet trap” systems like the SIMON/GREM door breaching grenade, which are designed to fit over the barrel of the rifle – or to multiple-round, dedicated 40mm grenade launchers like the US military’s MSGL. Airtronic has been manufacturing the M203 family of 40mm Grenade Launchers (M203s, M203A1s, and M203A2s) since 2006, and says that it has delivered 24,700 launchers without a single field failure. Even so, the M203 is facing serious competition for service within the US military.
While high-tech weapons items get a lot of billing, the Global War on Terror is very much an infantry war. Firepower overmatch matters in those situations, which explains the corresponding popularity of 40mm grenade systems on the modern battlefield. Enter, then, the US Marine Corps’ M-32 six-shot 40mm grenade launcher.
During an annual symposium several years ago, Marine gunners decided that they needed an option that was more powerful than the ubiquitous M203 one-shot launchers that mount under their M4 or M16 rifles. The M-32 won out as an experimental weapon for each marine battalion – and now a variant appears to have won a larger formal competition.
Allegations and legal depositions state that the firm traded booze for weapons, and bought weapons and vehicles on the black market in Iraq between 2003-2004. At least one of those employees have expressed concern that the money used to buy these items may have ended up in the hands of Iraq’s Islamists, who were connected to criminal enterprises in Iraq at a number of different levels.
The article itself turns out to be more balanced than its headline might indicate, and the detailed accusations are linked to detailed responses; both are worth reading. Beginning with the revelation that significant responsibility for this state of affairs traces right back to the US State Department…
The US DoD recently announced a 3-year, firm-fixed-price $353.7 million contract to Sig Sauer, Inc. in Exeter, NH. This contract covers Sig Sauer’s P226 and P228 pistols, as well as contractor furnished spare parts. Work is to be performed in Exeter, NH, and the contract will run until April 25/12. One bid was solicited, with one bid received.
The P226 lost out to Beretta’s 92F as the US military’s “M9” main sidearm, but the Navy SEALs subsequently adopted it. The P228/ M11 is a compact version that serves with US Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps flight crews, as well as criminal investigation units like Army CID, Air Force OSI, and Navy CIS. Pistol reviews of the SIG P226 9mm and the P228 9mm can be found on The Arms Site.
Inquiries to TACOM Rock Island, IL, who manages the contract, revealed that this particular contract is not targeted at the American military…
ATK subsidiary Federal Cartridge Co. in Anoka, MN received a $49.9 million firm-fixed-price, indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quantity contract for .300 Winchester magnum ammunition. Maximum quantity is 80,100 boxes of 480 rounds each, minimum is 117 boxes. This ammunition will be used by U.S. forces engaged in combat, and by the US Navy in Match Team competition.
300 Winchester offers longer range, better accuracy, and more hitting power than standard NATO 7.62 x 51 mm rounds. The MK248 MOD 1 cartridge grew out of the .300 Winchester Magnum Product Improvement Program…
Use means wear. Wear means maintenance or replacement. Use in combat conditions also generates life-or-death requests for improvements. The Dutch are facing al of these imperatives thanks to combat operations in southern Afghanistan, and so they are turning their attention to the weapons their soldiers carry. Their army currently uses a combination of C7 (M16), C8 (M4), and LSW (M16 CAR sustained fire weapon) rifles from Diemaco (now Colt Canada), and FN Herstal’s Minimi 5.56mm light machine gun. Under Project SRIM-OAD, the Dutch intend to RESET and upgrade 25,000 Diemaco rifles, and receive 2,000 new and upgraded Minimis, in order to re-equip their front line forces. The Dutch also aim to keep a spares reserve of 5% for mechanical elements and 10% for optical elements; the latter figure being because optics are more delicate and have longer repair or replacement times.
This EUR 43.8 million (VAT tax included, about $56 million) project will add at least 2 major upgrades to their weapons, and a contract has now been signed.
The latest official purchase request announced [PDF] by the US DSCA continues this trend, ans Iraq orders up to $148 million worth of small arms to equip its growing forces. Iraq’s request includes 80,000 M16A4 5.56mm Rifles, 25,000 of the more compact M4 5.56mm Carbines, and 2,550 M203 40mm Grenade Launchers that mount under the rifle’s barrel. The usual spare and repair parts, support equipment, and other forms of support are included, and some US government representatives will be required in theater. Exactly how many and for how long will be determined during contract negotiations, but the aim will be to make maximum use of existing US and Iraqi personnel. The principal contractors are Colt Manufacturing Company in Hartford, CT, who still has an exclusive license for the M4, and and FN Manufacturing Group Herstal, S.A. in Herstal, Belgium.