Army Kills Competition to Replace M4

Army M4

The Army announced today it is formally concluding its Individual Carbine competition without selecting a winner to replace the M4 Carbine.

“None of the carbines evaluated during the testing phase of the competition met the minimum scoring requirement needed to continue to the next phase of the evaluation,” according to a June 13 Army press release.

The Army sent out letters to gun makers, such as Heckler & Koch, FNH-USA, Remington Defense, Adcor Defense Inc. and Colt Defense LLC, the original maker of the M4 carbine, informing them that no future contract awards will be made for the final soldier evaluation phase.

Program Executive Office Soldier officials said that “no competitor demonstrated a significant improvement in weapon reliability” to justify buying a new carbine.

“Based upon Army analysis, test results may have been affected by interaction between the ammunition, the magazine and the weapon," the release states. “The Army’s existing carbine requirement assumed use of the M855 ammunition; the weapons tested in the IC competition all fired the next generation M855A1 Enhanced Performance Round (EPR) currently in fielding. The use of the M855A1 round likely resulted in lower than expected reliability performance. These effects are unique to testing conditions and are not known to affect the reliability of any weapon in the operational environment.”

Army officials, however, decided “not to pursue a new carbine competition ... following careful consideration of the Army’s operational requirements in the context of the available small arms technology, the constrained fiscal environment, and the capability of our current carbines,” the release states.

The Army’s announcement occurred despite a recent House Armed Services Committee budget amendment aimed at preventing the Army from canceling its improved carbine competition without conducting Phase III of the effort.

It’s been five years since Army leaders announced the plan to search for a replacement for the M4 Carbine, originally made by Colt Defense LLC. Program officials plan on reprogramming the $49.6 million requested in the proposed fiscal 2014 budget to buy 30,000 new Individual Carbines, Military.com reported May 2.

Army weapons officials recently completed Phase II of the competition, where testers fired hundreds of thousands of rounds through prototype carbines.

The HASC amendment still would have had to pass through the Senate and would not have taken effect until Oct. 1 -- the beginning of fiscal 2014 -- so the Army hasn’t violated a congressional directive.

The carbine competition is not the only effort the Army has launched to improve the soldier’s basic individual weapon. The service recently decided to replace the standard M4 with the M4A1, as a result of its M4 Product Improvement Program.

The M4A1 is the special operations version of the weapon that’s been in use 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 maintain.

The Army has budgeted $21.2 million to buy 12,000 M4A1s in the proposed fiscal 2014 budget.

The Army’s effort to replace the M4 has also not been without scrutiny. The Pentagon’s Inspector General recently announced it was auditing the improved-carbine effort. In March 19 testimony before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, the watchdog group said there were concerns that “DoD may not have an established need for this weapon nor developed performance requirements … such as accuracy, reliability, and lethality,” according to testimony.

Army officials and program experts were quick to point out, however, that the IG testimony contains misunderstandings about basic facts of the carbine-improvement effort. The Army established its requirements for the improved carbine effort three years ago.

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