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Army Delays Effort to Replace M9 9mm Pistol

The U.S. Army announced it is delaying a competition to replace its current M9 9mm pistol with a new Modular Handgun System (MHS).

Army contracting officials released a Jan. 12 special notice on FedBizOpps.gov, announcing the delay of the final Request for Proposals for MHS.

"The purpose of this special notice is to advise interested vendors that the release of the Modular Handgun System (MHS) Request for Proposals (RFP) will not occur in January 2015 as previously stated at the last Industry Day," the notice states.

The announcement follows a Military.com report about the December decision of the service’s Configuration Control Board to deny Beretta USA’s submission of a modernized version of the M9 pistol, the M9A3, as an alternative to MHS.

The M9, made by Beretta USA, was adopted by the U.S. military in 1985. The effort to replace the M9 could result in the Defense Department buying 500,000 new pistols during a period of significant defense-spending reductions.

MHS is set to cost at least $350 million and potentially millions more if it results in the selection of a more potent pistol caliber, sources said.

Army weapons officials have held three industry days for MHS to refine requirements for a more powerful, state-of-the-art pistol.

Beretta then unveiled its M9A3 in December as an engineering change proposal to the current contract. The improved M9 features new sights, a rail for mounting lights and accessories, better ergonomics and improved reliability, according to Beretta USA officials.

Army weapons officials have refused to comment about the M9A3 proposal. Right now, it is still unclear if the Army intends to reverse its decision not to evaluate the M9A3.

"Release of the RFP is hereby delayed until further notice in order to allow for improvements to the RFP as a result of feedback received from Industry," the notice states.

"Upon completion of the improvements to the RFP, the government may conduct another Industry Day to address the changes made to the RFP and continue to give industry the opportunity to actively participate in shaping the program. … The Army remains committed to the MHS program and ensuring that it is executed using full and open competition."

The Army began working with the small arms industry on MHS in early 2013, but the joint effort has been in the works for more than five years.

Current plans call for the Army to purchase more than 280,000 handguns from a single vendor, with delivery of the first new handgun systems scheduled for 2017, according to Program Executive Office Soldier officials. The Army also plans to buy approximately 7,000 sub-compact versions of the handgun.

The other military services participating in the MHS program may order an additional 212,000 systems above the Army quantity.

-- Matthew Cox can be reached at matthew.cox@military.com

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