Beretta USA said the U.S. Army has rejected the gun-maker’s request that the service reconsider its M9A3 pistol as an alternative to the Modular Handgun System (MHS) program.
Beretta officials sent the Jan. 30 request in response to the Army’s formal rejection of the M9A3 Engineering Change Proposal to the current M9 contract.
“Needless to say, we are disappointed,” Gabriele de Plano, vice president of Beretta Defense Technologies (BDT) Marketing Operations, said in March 2 email.
Beretta submitted the M9A3 to the Army in early December. The improved M9 features new sights, a rail for mounting lights and accessories, better ergonomics and improved reliability, according to Beretta USA officials.
Military.com ran a Jan. 9 article reporting that the service's Configuration Control Board decided in December to deny Beretta's M9A3 ECP proposal as an alternative to MHS.
Then the Army unexpectedly delayed the start of its MHS competition Jan. 12, postponing the release of the formal Request for Proposals that was scheduled for January.
Beretta would not comment on the Army's Jan. 29 letter, but a source familiar with the document said Army officials rejected the M9A3 because it goes beyond what a traditional ECP is supposed to do. As a result, Army officials said they could not alter the original M9 contract and the M9A3 would have to be submitted as a brand new pistol, the source said.
Army officials made the decision without asking a single question about the M9A3, nor did they request any samples for a closer inspection, according to Beretta.
“Of course we are disappointed by this decision, but will continue to promote these improvements as a cost-effective solution," de Plano said. "Paired with the 9mm high-performance ammunition being developed ... we believe the M9A3 pistol/ammunition system can provide the warfighter with a very accurate and lethal combination at a fraction of the cost of a new start program. Based on the overwhelmingly positive feedback from the market, we also look forward to releasing the M9A3 to our commercial and law enforcement customers later this year."
The U.S. military adopted the M9 in 1985. The MHS effort to replace the 9mm pistol with a more powerful handgun 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 powerful pistol caliber, sources said.
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.