Thursday, September 18, 2008

US Army solicits new rifle designs & calibers

One thing that gun nuts never tire of is arguing about the best caliber for weaponry.

Bush's global war on terror has re-focused the attention of the military on the requirements for rifles and small arms. No longer is the military preparing solely for a combined arms assault using artillery, aircraft, tanks, armored personnel carriers and infantry.

In peacekeeping, occupation, and anti-terrorism operations, often a soldier is only armed with his sidearm and working against irregular forces where the US advantage in weapons platforms is neutralized.

So it appears that the military is at least willing to investigate a new rifle in a new caliber.

In a move that could reverse years of Army small arms policy, the service is asking industry to send in ideas for a new combat rifle that could replace the M4 carbine...

And in a dramatic gesture that could throw the door wide open to a totally new carbine, the service did not constrain ideas to the current 5.56mm round used in the M4...

Some in Congress have called for the Army to hold a “shoot-off” with several other carbine designs alongside the Colt-built M4 to demonstrate the state of the art in today’s military arms market. Sen. Tom Coburn (R - Okla.) briefly held up the nomination of Army Secretary Pete Geren in mid-2007 to force the service into side-by-side comparisons of M4 competitors in extreme dust conditions.

Many argue the M4 is more susceptible to fouling due to its gas-operated design, and say other systems are less maintenance intensive.

The move to broaden the competition is also calendar-driven: the so-called “technical data package” of the M4 — essentially the blueprints for the design — are up for release in June of next year. That means the Army can rebid the M4 to any company that can make it, potentially driving down costs and boosting production capacity.

And as if that wasn’t enough, the Army is also in the midst of re-writing its carbine requirements document, which will spell out specifically what the service needs for its primary weapon...

“If there’s some new technology out there, they want to be able to write a requirement that will not limit the Army to something they could possibly have,” [soldier weapons project manager] Audette said.

The Army is leaving itself open to carbine ideas that could stray from the nearly 40-year policy of using 5.56mm ammunition for its rifles. Recent developments in ammunition calibers have bolstered critics who contend the 5.56 round has too little “stopping power” and passes through its target without incapacitating him...

[S]everal “boutique” rounds have been making inroads with weapons developers both in and outside the government. The 6.8mm and 6.5mm round are increasingly popular, as is the old-school 7.62mm round — which Special Operations Command plans to incorporate into its new carbine program. |Army Taps Industry for M4 Replacement - Tactical Life|


dr said...

This sounds like a give away to defense contractors. Even if the gun is imperfect, wouldn't that be amply compensated for by the fact that it's about to get a whole lot cheaper?

Neal R. Axton (USA) said...

I think that rifles are a relatively inexpensive part of our giveaway to the military-industrial complex.

The big money is in rocket launchers and unmanned drones. And don't get me started on boondoggles like Stars Wars.

I think the absolute, very least we can do is supply our soldiers with workable small arms.

Personally, I wouldn't want to take an M-4 into combat, so I welcome the decision.