Advance warning: This is a long entry, but necessary reading. If you have a child, a relative, or a friend in the US Army, sit down and take a deep breath before reading this. You're going to need it...
It seemed like a routine request. Order more M4 carbines for US forces in the pending FY 2007 supplemental, FY 2008 budget, and FY 2008 supplemental funding bills. It has turned into anything but a routine exercise, however - with serving soldiers, journalists, and Senators casting a very critical eye on the effort and the rifle, and demanding open competition.
With requests amounting to $375 million for weapons and $150 million in accessories, they say, the Army's proposal amounts to an effort to replace the M16 as the USA's primary battle rifle - using specifications that are around 15 years old, without a competition, and without considering whether better 5.56 mm alternatives might be available off the shelf. Meanwhile, the M4/M16 family is both praised and criticized for its current performance in the field. DID explains the effort, the issues, and the options.
The latest developments? The M4 and 3 competitors, including one M4 variant that can be converted from existing rifles, come out of a sandstorm reliability test - and the M4 finishes dead last, with 1 jam per 68 shots, 3.77x more jams than the 3rd place finisher. Meanwhile, US Special Forces have declared that the M4 carbine "does not meet the requirements of SOF," and currently use 2 of the test's competitors. But the US Army publicly says that it doesn't care, and orders more M4 carbines....
This latest update is the angriest I have ever been when writing an article at Defense Industry Daily. Words like "unconscionable" come to mind as the among the few printable things I can say, and the kindest. But the topper came from Brig. Gen. Mark Brown, commander of the US Army's Program Executive Office Soldier and the Natick Soldier Systems Center. He's responsible for equipping Army soldiers. The quote?
"However, the three other candidates did perform better at about a 99 percent rate or better, which is a mathematically statistically significant difference, but not an operationally statistical difference.".... The Army has put an option on an existing contract for 64,450 M4s, according to the general."
"A mathematically statistically significant difference, but not an operationally statistical difference." Perhaps the US Army could put that on their recruiting posters, next to a picture of a jammed rifle. But read on...
- The M4 Carbine
- Nobody Loves Me but My Mother - and She Could Be Jivin' Too...
- The Cry for Competition: How Much Is That HK In the Window?
- Testing, Testing - Fairly?
- UPDATES: The Tests, Reactions, and Subsequent Developments [NEW]
- Any Last Words?
- Appendix A: M4 Carbine Contracts Announced to Date
- Appendix B: Additional Readings & Sources - News & Developments
- Appendix C: Additional Readings & Sources - Weapons