U.S. Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond Odierno would not confirm if the service has decided to cancel the Improved Carbine competition, but said he “feels very good” about the upgraded version of the M4 carbine.
For the past five years, Army weapons officials have been trying to improve the existing M4, and at the same time, search for a possible replacement for it.
In a May 2 story, Military.com reported that Army weapons officials are in the process of canceling the competition for a new carbine and reprogramming $49.6 million in the proposed fiscal 2014 budget to buy 30,000 improved carbines, according to a source familiar with the effort.
The service embarked on the search for a replacement to the M4 carbine in 2008 after a handful of commercial carbines outperformed the M4 in an Army reliability test. Program officials launched the formal competition in 2011 and just recently wrapped up Phase II of a three-phase competition.
Now the Army is rethinking how to use what amounts to more than $300 million the service budgeted for new carbines through 2018.
Odierno said Tuesday that the Army hasn’t yet decided whether to cancel the carbine competition.
“We haven’t made that final decision,” he said in response to a question from Military.com at a Defense Writers Group roundtable. “We’re getting close.”
Testers have so far fired hundreds of thousands of rounds through carbines submitted by gun makers such as Heckler & Koch, FNH-USA, Remington Defense, Adcor Defense Inc. and Colt Defense LLC, the original maker of the M4 carbine.
But the competition is far from over.
The Army had originally planned to award three contracts to three gun makers for the final phase of the competition, which would involve soldiers firing nearly 800,000 rounds in three separate user evaluations before choosing a winning carbine. The Army then planned to conduct an analysis of alternatives to see if the winner is a significant improvement over the M4A1 to justify the investment.
Odierno seemed to have already come to a decision later in the roundtable, when the discussion returned to the M4A1 -- the weapon that has emerged from M4 Product Improvement Program.
The M4A1 is the special-operations version of the M4 that has been in service for just over a decade. It features a heavier barrel and a full-auto trigger. The Army’s decision to dump the current three-round burst trigger will give shooters a more consistent trigger pull and lead to better accuracy, weapons officials have said.
““I'll give you my position on the M4. We've modernized it,” Odierno said. “It's a great system. I feel very comfortable with the [improved] M4, very comfortable.”