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In Wake of Army Handgun Contract, Senator Calls For Rifle Upgrade

An Iowa lawmaker congratulated the Army's vice chief of staff on inking a contract for a new Army handgun in January--but lost no time in pressing him on further small arms upgrades.

Sen. Joni Ernst, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and a retired lieutenant colonel in the Army National Guard, addressed Gen. Daniel Allyn during a readiness subcommittee hearing on Capitol Hill today. The Iowa Republican reminded him that other world powers were also investing in sophisticated weapons.

"I do commend the Army's recent action on upgrading its handgun. The fact remains that it took far too long to happen, but we are underway," she said. "Russia continues to upgrade its rifles and this really needs to be a priority as well for the Army. So again to you, besides more money, what can we do to upgrade other small arms and how can we do it faster?"

Allyn opted not to address the question of additional rifle upgrades directly, but noted that the Army was struggling to maintain modernization programs amid ongoing budget limits.

"I know that we are aware that we have a soldier enhancement program that is part of our Program Executive Officer soldier," he said. "And we are focused on a number of initiatives to ensure that our soldiers have the best possible equipment as they go into combat in the future as we have been able to do in the past ... we have a number of lighter, better human dynamic and next-generation capabilities that we need to get to the force. But we've got to have money to enable that to happen."

The Army is in the process of upgrading its M4 carbines to M4A1s, an improved design that offers a more durable barrel and a fully automatic fire option instead of three-round bursts. They expect the process of fielding M4A1s to the force to continue into 2020. Last June, officials announced they were scrapping plans to pursue additional "M4A1+" improvements, saying they did not add enough additional value.

The Army announced in January it had picked Sig Sauer's P320 9mm handgun to replace its M9 legacy system, granting the New Hampshire company a $580 million contract. Initial operational testing is set to begin this summer, officials said.

 

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