As part of its Defense Industrial Strategy, the UK looked at the missile sector in 2007 and concluded that a 50% reduction in “complex weapons” funding was expected over the next 5 years. In response, they set up a joint MOD-industry team, including MBDA (UK), Thales, BAES Underwater Systems Ltd and QinetiQ; and talked to lower tier suppliers such as Roxel, SELEX and Ultra. When the song and dance ended, Raytheon was left without a seat, as “Team Complex Weapons” (MBDA UK, Thales, Roxel, and QinetiQ) was set up to provide for the UK’s future needs. A GBP 500+ million contract for a Loitering Munition Demonstration and Manufacture program would follow, conditionally single-sourced to Team CW.
As a next step, Britain and France have launched a multi-million pound Innovation and Technology Partnership (ITP) focused on materials and components for missiles. The ITP will be jointly funded by the British and French governments and an industry and academic consortium led by arms company MBDA. Total funding is expected to be GBP 10.3 million (about $23.5 million): GBP 2.5 million from the UK MoD, GBP 2.65 million equivalent from the French DGA Armament Procurement Agency, plus matching contributions from industry over the ITP’s 3 year period. In the words of the UK MoD release:
“The ITP has been set up to fulfil joint research needs of UK and France for missile technology, identifying common capability and technology needs and examining emerging technologies for future equipment. The ITP aims to consolidate a future European guided weapon capability by building the technological base and allowing a better understanding of common future needs, and prepare for future cooperative programmes.”
The US Army has run into controversy over its plan to replace its existing rifles with M4 carbines, without competition, and despite recent test results that show significant improvements from other 5.56mm weapons and even an M4 variant in use by US special forces. The US Marines and Navy have been known to use M4s, but it is not their primary battle rifle. The M16A3 is a fully automatic version of the M16A2, and is used by the US Navy. The M16A4 is the standard rifle of the US Marine Corps. Its biggest innovation is replacement of the M-16 family’s the well known carrying handle/sight with the MIL-STD-1913 Picatinny rail that lets troops mount and remove a carrying handle, sights, and other useful attachments without specialized tools. Other MIL-STD-1913 rails can be found on the front grips et. al. of the A3s and A4s, where they mount useful items like flashlights, laser pointers, grip pods, et. al.
Unlike the M4 Carbine, which is procured as a sole-source item proprietary to Colt, M-16 production is competed. Contracts are issued based on bid prices from qualifying vendors, with better pricing resulting in proportionately more contracts. This kind of competition may also be part of the reason that the longer, heavier replacement barrels for the M16 cost $100, while spare M4 carbine barrels cost $240.
The Naval Facilities Engineering Command, Southwest, Specialty Center Contracts Core in Port Hueneme, CA issued a combined total of $39.95 million under a previously awarded firm-fixed-price multiple award contracts, exercising option year 3 for waterfront barrier maintenance and repair worldwide. Work to be performed provides for logistical support, installation, inspection, repair, maintenance and field supervision/operation of waterfront barriers, moorings, at marine facilities throughout the world. The current total contract amount after exercise of this option will be $158.5 million.
Work will be performed at various installations under NAVFAC Southwest’s area of responsibility worldwide, and is expected to be complete December 2008. Contract funds will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. Winners included small business qualifiers:
Epsilon Systems Solutions, Inc. in Portsmouth, VA (N68711-05-D-0018)
GPA Technologies, Inc. in Ventura, CA (N68711-05-D-0019)
Harbor Offshore, Inc. in Ventura, CA (N68711-05-D-0017)