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Army wants soldiers to have improved carbine

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Old August 29th, 2010   #1
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Talking Army wants soldiers to have improved carbine

Army wants soldiers to have improved carbine - Army News | News from Afghanistan & Iraq - Army Times

Soldiers, get ready for a better carbine. The Army has launched a dual strategy designed to give you a more accurate, durable and lethal weapon that will be the mainstay for the next 40 years.
The first part of that strategy is to radically overhaul the M4 starting now and give grunts an improved version of the special operations M4A1. Simultaneously, the second part challenges industry to come up with a new carbine that can outperform the M4. The competition opened in early August.
“This is an historic event. We have not done a carbine competition in our lifetimes,” Col. Douglas Tamilio, project manager for soldier weapons, told Army Times. His office is spearheading the M4 Carbine Improvement Program. “We don’t switch rifles and carbines too quickly, and it is not an easy thing.”
The M4 has faced some criticism from soldiers and others who have cited problems with its lethality and reliability, including a 2007 “dust” test in which the M4 performed the worst among four weapons tested, with the greatest number of stoppages.
Tamilio, a career infantry officer, said the weapon has “served the Army extremely well” and touted the 62 improvements made to the M4 in the past 19 years. But, he said, “We can’t sit on our laurels and say M4 is good enough.”

Deadlier weapon

The improvements have begun on thousands of M4s being built now, and thousands more will get conversion kits.
The upgrades will be done in phases. The improvement plan’s first phase essentially distributes an improved M4A1, which is notable for its heavier barrel and automatic fire. The heavier barrel reduces warping and erosion, resulting in better performance and longer life. It also allows for a higher sustained rate of fire.
The Army also is adding ambidextrous controls.
The Army has 12,000 M4s on the production line, and has told manufacturer Colt to turn them into A1s, said Brig. Gen. Peter Fuller, Program Executive Office Soldier.
In addition, 25,000 M4A1s would be purchased beyond existing contracts, as well as roughly 65,000 conversion kits, Tamilio said.
“The Army would like to convert about 150,000 in the near term for infantry brigade combat teams,” he said. The optimal plan would be to convert all the M4s, he added, but funding will be a large factor in that decision.
More changes external to the weapon are also improving its reliability and lethality, Fuller said.
Soldiers will experience fewer jams, thanks to a new magazine that doesn’t allow rounds to move, he said.
And the new M855 A1 ammo provides more stopping power at shorter distances. The older round had to get into a yaw dependency for maximum effect. If it hit the enemy straight, it would punch right through them. The new ammo is not yaw dependent. If it hits the enemy, he is going down.
Many combat vets surveyed in 2006 described how enemy soldiers were shot multiple times but were still able to continue fighting. The survey included 2,600 soldiers who served in Iraq and Afghanistan.
One in five U.S. soldiers polled recommended a more lethal round. The new round is designed to address that.
“It’s not enhanced performance, it’s consistent performance,” Fuller said. “It really performs the way you want a round to perform, and it’s optimized to the M4.”

Better accuracy

The second phase of the M4 improvement program begins this fall and will focus on increasing the M4’s effectiveness and accuracy, with emphasis on the bolt, bolt carrier assembly and the forward rail assembly.
Over time, reliability will degrade with the bolt, as that component provides the weapon’s action. Officials will host an open competition for a new bolt assembly to determine whether different materials and coatings can enhance the bolt. The Army also is interested in “unique design changes” that have arisen within the industry, Tamilio said.
The service also looks to strengthen the forward rail assembly on top of the receiver. This lends stability to the weapon and serves as the mount for weapon attachments, but restricts the barrel movement that is required for accuracy when re-engaging the target. The Army wants to determine whether a free-floating rail is the answer.
Officials also will look to provide a more consistent trigger pull for better control, according to a June Congressional Research Service report.

New operating system

The third phase, focusing on the operating system, will begin in about 18 months, Tamilio said. The goal is to improve the gas system by allowing less gas and dirt in, or replacing it with a conversion kit similar to the HNK16 that would put a piston in the M4.
Both have their benefits and detractors, the colonel said. The piston reduces the number of moving parts and provides better stability, but there is “a little more metal on metal,” which can diminish durability and accelerate fatigue.
A gas-impingement system is far smoother in operation, and supporters say its reduced heat and carbon deposits will decrease malfunctions. But the gas system requires a lot more elbow grease to get it clean.
The 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta, or “Delta Force,” replaced its M4s with the HK416 in 2004, according to the congressional report. That weapon combines the operating characteristics of the M4 with the piston system.
“There’s a lot of dynamics involved,” Fuller said. “When you go to a piston charger, you’re actually driving that bolt down at an angle versus back, so you have to make sure you understand it might not be the same weapon.”

The next carbine

The competition for the Army’s next-generation carbine opened in early August, and the service is looking for the “future Army weapon for any environment,” Fuller said.
The Army’s open, industrywide Individual Carbine Competition was approved Aug. 4 by the Joint Requirements Oversight Council.
No caliber restriction has been placed on a new design. The requirements, instead, are for the most reliable, accurate, durable, easy-to-use and easy-to-maintain weapon out there, Tamilio said.
It will be at least a 500-meter weapon and have a higher incapacitation percentage, meaning if a shot doesn’t kill the enemy, it will put a serious dent in his medical record.
This weapon will be modular and able to carry all the existing attachments soldiers use.
It can have a gas or piston system.
Interchangeable barrel sizes, such as those seen in the SCAR, are not a “must have,” but “certainly won’t be a negative thing,” Tamilio said.
But above all, Fuller wants a weapon that has the soldiers’ approval.
“We really need to figure out lethality from a ‘soldier in the loop’ perspective,” he said. “If you can’t shoot the weapon accurately, it doesn’t matter how lethal it is.”
To meet that goal, Tamilio will release a draft request for proposal late this year. It is a warning order of sorts that will give industry a preliminary idea of what is expected. An industry day will follow in which officials will answer questions and provide clarity.
The official RfP will go out early next year, in the second quarter of fiscal 2011, which begins in January. Manufacturers will have a set time, typically a few months, to respond with their proposed weapons.
Next comes the “extreme, extensive testing” and selection of the weapons, Tamilio said.
During testing, hundreds of thousand of rounds will be fired over 12 to 18 months as weapons are tested to their destruction point. The primary goal is to determine if they meet Army specifications. But evaluators also will know whether a weapon can live up to its manufacturer’s claims.
“If they say it has a barrel life up to 20,000 rounds, we’ll test to that,” Tamilio said.
Weapons will also be tested to see if they maintain accuracy throughout their life cycle — something the military has not tested before, Tamilio said. A weapon typically loses accuracy as it ages.
“This is a huge importance for us,” he said.
Soldiers will be involved in virtually all aspects of this testing, Tamilio said. From the individual to unit, he said the tests will focus on what soldiers really care about: “When he pulls the trigger, it fires in a reliable fashion, and what he aims at, he hits.”

Mixed reviews

Investing in an improved M4 has met some opposition.

Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., in April 2007 asked Army leadership why the service planned to spend $375 million on the carbine through fiscal 2009 “without considering newer and possibly better weapons available on the commercial market.” The senator’s letter questioned the M4’s reliability and lethality and called for a “free and open competition” to evaluate alternatives.

Nevertheless, improvements have been recommended from within the service. The Army Infantry Center in a Small Arms Capabilities-Based Assessment in 2008 identified 42 separate ideas for material solutions to address capability gaps. Thirteen solutions called for new or improved munitions, and 10 involved aiming devices, optics or laser designators. Only seven suggested modifying or developing new small arms.

After-action reports from soldiers both praise and criticize the M4’s reliability and lethality. The mixed reviews are reflected in the congressional report:

• A February 2001 U.S. Special Operations Command study said the M4A1 was “fundamentally flawed” and suffered “alarming failures … in operations under the harsh conditions and heavy firing schedules common in [special operations forces] training and operations.”

• An Army report from July 2003 on small arms performance during Operation Iraqi Freedom found the M4 was “by far the preferred individual weapon across the theater of operations.”

• A December 2006 survey requested by Army’s Project Manager for Soldier Weapons and conducted by the Center for Naval Analyses polled 2,600 soldiers who had engaged in combat action in Iraq or Afghanistan. More than half said they never experienced a stoppage in the M4 or M16.

The study found that the frequency of disassembled cleaning did not affect the number of stoppages. The type and amount of lubrication used had little effect on stoppages, though dry lubricant decreased reports for M4 stoppages. Nearly nine in 10 soldiers said they were satisfied with the M4.

• A December 2007 test — resulting from Coburn’s letter — evaluated the M4 against the HK416, the HK XM8 and the FNH SCAR. Each system had 10 weapons on the line, and each fired 6,000 rounds under sandstorm conditions. The XM8 had 127 stoppages, the SCAR had 226 stoppages, the HK416 had 233 stoppages and the M4 had 882 stoppages. The Army later modified that number to 296 stoppages, attributing the difference to discrepancies in the test and scoring.
When you’ll get it

A new weapon could be selected by the end of 2011. How long it would take to field a new weapon would depend on funding. Fielding could start fairly quickly, but will take up to 10 years, Tamilio said.

No cost estimate of producing a new weapon is available from the Army, as the dozens of potential manufacturers have yet to receive specifications and generate the subsequent design.

By Aug. 19, the Army had 41 respondents to its market survey, Tamilio said.

“Industry is waiting for this,” he said. “They are excited about this … and that’s exactly what we want.”

How the dual-path strategy unfolds remains to be seen, but it means every soldier should be getting a better carbine.

That’s because there are 1.1 million soldiers, but only 500,000 M4s in the system. If the Army selects a new carbine, it may purchase 1.1 million. But a more likely scenario would see 500,000 purchased for infantry brigade combat teams, and the existing and improved M4s given to support troops to replace their M16s.

If the M4 turns out to be the weapon of choice, then the ICBTs will likely be fitted with the improved M4s, and the existing M4s would again be given to support troops to replace their M16s.

For soldiers “consistently using that M4 and satisfied with that M4, to know the Army is going out there to get you something better … that’s pretty damn exciting,” Tamilio said. “And that’s only going to make you more effective on the battlefield.”
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Old August 30th, 2010   #2
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Originally Posted by F-15 Eagle View Post
Army wants soldiers to have improved carbine - Army News | News from Afghanistan & Iraq - Army Times

Soldiers, get ready for a better carbine. The Army has launched a dual strategy designed to give you a more accurate, durable and lethal weapon that will be the mainstay for the next 40 years.
The first part of that strategy is to radically overhaul the M4 starting now and give grunts an improved version of the special operations M4A1. Simultaneously, the second part challenges industry to come up with a new carbine that can outperform the M4. The competition opened in early August.

Deadlier weapon

The improvements have begun on thousands of M4s being built now, and thousands more will get conversion kits.
The upgrades will be done in phases. The improvement plan’s first phase essentially distributes an improved M4A1, which is notable for its heavier barrel and automatic fire. The heavier barrel reduces warping and erosion, resulting in better performance and longer life. It also allows for a higher sustained rate of fire.

More changes external to the weapon are also improving its reliability and lethality, Fuller said.
Soldiers will experience fewer jams, thanks to a new magazine that doesn’t allow rounds to move, he said.

And the new M855 A1 ammo provides more stopping power at shorter distances. The older round had to get into a yaw dependency for maximum effect. If it hit the enemy straight, it would punch right through them. The new ammo is not yaw dependent. If it hits the enemy, he is going down.

One in five U.S. soldiers polled recommended a more lethal round. The new round is designed to address that.
“It’s not enhanced performance, it’s consistent performance,” Fuller said. “It really performs the way you want a round to perform, and it’s optimized to the M4.”

Better accuracy

The second phase of the M4 improvement program begins this fall and will focus on increasing the M4’s effectiveness and accuracy, with emphasis on the bolt, bolt carrier assembly and the forward rail assembly.
Over time, reliability will degrade with the bolt, as that component provides the weapon’s action. Officials will host an open competition for a new bolt assembly to determine whether different materials and coatings can enhance the bolt. The Army also is interested in “unique design changes” that have arisen within the industry, Tamilio said.

The service also looks to strengthen the forward rail assembly on top of the receiver. This lends stability to the weapon and serves as the mount for weapon attachments, but restricts the barrel movement that is required for accuracy when re-engaging the target. The Army wants to determine whether a free-floating rail is the answer.

Officials also will look to provide a more consistent trigger pull for better control, according to a June Congressional Research Service report.

New operating system

The third phase, focusing on the operating system, will begin in about 18 months, Tamilio said. The goal is to improve the gas system by allowing less gas and dirt in, or replacing it with a conversion kit similar to the HNK16 that would put a piston in the M4.

The 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta, or “Delta Force,” replaced its M4s with the HK416 in 2004, according to the congressional report. That weapon combines the operating characteristics of the M4 with the piston system.
In short the M4A1 should have:

- a heavier barrel -> more rigid, more accurate especially in prolonged firefights, heavier especially upfront, less muzzlejump, steadier aiming, slower pointing. (should ease also the problem with the forward rails.)

- a more rigid forward rails -> more stability, more weight, more accuracy if it is freefloating.

- a more consistent trigger pull -> very important for good shooting

- a new, more reliable mag -> a good mag, which is well cared is a key element of reliability.

- new ammunition -> less muzzle flash, expanding or fragmentating in nature


One will see. If it gets a new upper with a piston it could be rather similar to the "IAR" bar the shorter barrel.

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Old August 30th, 2010   #3
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Firm, do you really need such a lengthy quote to say what you said?

...

This looks like the Army's version of the USMC "IAR" trials: Basically make a lot of noise, spend a lot of money, and many years later the troops end up with something not much different from what they already have.

Interesting bit at the end says that the Army wants to give all 1.1mil soldiers a carbine to "replace the M16". What's wrong with the M16's? A classic case of fixing what's not broken.

Last edited by Chino; August 30th, 2010 at 09:49 PM.
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Old August 31st, 2010   #4
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It looks like they are going away with 3 round burst and back to full auto from the looks of it. If they are buying more M4A1s instead of M4s.
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Old August 31st, 2010   #5
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Firm, do you really need such a lengthy quote to say what you said?

...

This looks like the Army's version of the USMC "IAR" trials: Basically make a lot of noise, spend a lot of money, and many years later the troops end up with something not much different from what they already have.

Interesting bit at the end says that the Army wants to give all 1.1mil soldiers a carbine to "replace the M16". What's wrong with the M16's? A classic case of fixing what's not broken.
Except they are just upgrading their rifles and not replacing machine guns with rifles thats the major difference.

The M16 is a 40 year old design and something new would be nice for a change.

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- new ammunition -> less muzzle flash, expanding or fragmentating in nature

Firn
I don't know how they are reducing muzzle flash but my guess is they are just adding some flash retardants to the powder.

The M855A1 will be more consistent for fragmenting from the M4A1 giving it better stopping power.
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Old August 31st, 2010   #6
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- new ammunition -> less muzzle flash, expanding or fragmentating in nature
Unfortunately, expanding/fragmenting ammunition is banned under terms of the Hague Convention.

Maybe a shift to 6.8SPC would make up for it.
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Old August 31st, 2010   #7
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Unfortunately, expanding/fragmenting ammunition is banned under terms of the Hague Convention.

Maybe a shift to 6.8SPC would make up for it.
Google "M855A1". The new ammunition type they're talking about increases lethality in the M4 without the massive overheads required for adopting a new calibre. You might also want to check out the Mk 318 Mod 0 SOST round, which is a USMC open-tip 5.56mm round currently seeing use in Afghanistan. Here are some links if you're interested in reading more:

U.S. Army Begins Shipping M855A1 Enhanced Performance Round (M855A1 EPR) a.k.a. “Green Ammo” Improved 5.56mm NATO Round to Warfighters: Green Tip M855 Ball Ammo Gets a Serious Upgrade

USMC Adopts New Open-tip 'SOST' 5.56 Ammo « Daily Bulletin
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Old August 31st, 2010   #8
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The new ammunition type they're talking about increases lethality in the M4 without the massive overheads required for adopting a new calibre.
With a round that flies faster and hits harder the sensible thing to do would be to make the shift to a new weapons system.

Of course, when Special Forces operators collaborated with Heckler & Koch to make the 416 as an improvement on the M4s that failed on them during a particular mission in Afghanistan, the Army decided it was too costly to adopt a new platform that instance as well, and HK offered a much better deal than their existing contract for M4 procurement.

Military acquisitions, where common sense is the exception, not the rule.
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Old August 31st, 2010   #9
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With a round that flies faster and hits harder the sensible thing to do would be to make the shift to a new weapons system.
But isn't that what they're doing? There's an entire section of the above article called "The next carbine" that details the procurement of a new weapon system...
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Old August 31st, 2010   #10
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I was originally commenting on the "expanding/fragmenting" ammunition comment.

But when it comes to the acquisition of a new system, my main thing is that, this isn't the first time they've sought an improvement on the M4. At least two other plans I can recall off the top of my head to replace the AR-15 platform have been cancelled with regards to funding and whatnot in the last decade.
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Old September 3rd, 2010   #11
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My vote is why fix something fish pictures that's not broke? IMO they will be hard pressed to design a new battle rifle to last another 40 years. Possibly improve the M4, but a redesign..I dunno ..
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Old September 16th, 2010   #12
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Corps to pass on Army upgrades to M4.

Corps to pass on Army upgrades to M4 - Marine Corps News, news from Afghanistan - Marine Corps Times

As the Army moves to field more than 10,000 conversion kits designed to make the 5.56mm M4 deadlier and more reliable, the Marine Corps says it has no plans to update its inventory.
Upgrades will integrate a heavier, more durable barrel, strengthened site rails, a piston-charged operating system and the ability to fire in full automatic mode — fixes designed to address complaints about the weapons’ lethality and reliability. The plan calls for distributing 12,000 conversion kits in the short term, effectively turning existing M4s into improved versions of the special operations M4A1, said Army Brig. Gen. Peter Fuller, commander of Program Executive Office Soldier. An additional 25,000 M4A1s and 65,000 conversion kits would be purchased through additional contracts.
The Army also launched a contract competition in August for a next-generation carbine, which could be fielded in 2012.
Nearly all infantry soldiers use M4s, but in the Corps they are fielded primarily to vehicle operators and other Marines whose jobs render the primary service rifle, the M16A4, too cumbersome. The Corps has no plans to upgrade either rifle, Lt. Gen. George Flynn, deputy commandant for combat development and integration, told Marine Corps Times on Aug. 23.
“As far as the weapons for the infantry squad right now, the only thing we’re looking at is the infantry automatic rifle,” said Flynn, referring to the 5.56mm weapon the Corps is considering as a replacement for the M249 squad automatic weapon in some infantry formations. IAR tests are ongoing.
The Corps has considered alternatives to 5.56mm ammunition to increase rifle stopping power, Commandant Gen. James Conway said Aug. 22, but officials decided instead to “make sure we’re getting all we can” from existing ammo fired from the M16. Those alternatives included 7.62mm and 6.68mm weapons, Conway said, adding that cost is one factor precluding the Corps from adopting either of them.
“We have looked at a 7.62 system,” he said. “We looked at a 6.68 system that had interchangeable barrels and receiver. But before we go to something like that and go to a completely new rifle, which would be fairly expensive for us, we want to make sure we’re getting all we can out of the cartridges we fire” out of the M16.
With its shorter barrel, a carbine has limited range and takedown power on targets beyond 200 yards. It’s “more an extension of the pistol than it is an adjustment to the rifle,” the commandant said. Most of the Corps’ infantry uses the M16A4.
“We’ve been looking at our small arms for a long time, you know, assessing the effects on the battlefield, knock-down power, killing power, those types of things,” Conway said. “We are never going to be a carbine Marine Corps, OK. We’re never going to go completely to the M4. We’re a rifle Marine Corps. We believe in long-range shooting skills, and those skills are just not as resident in a carbine as they are in a service rifle.”
U.S. combat troops have complained about the stopping power of both the M16A4 and M4 in recent years, particularly in Afghanistan, where combat is frequently in open fields and valleys that require powerful, long-range shots. In response, the Corps began replacing its conventional Cold War-era 5.56mm M855 ammo this spring with an enhanced 5.56mm Special Operations Science & Technology round that uses an open-tip design common in sniper ammunition. The Corps also is considering a new, lead-free Army round fielded recently, the M855A1, and will evaluate both options in coming months.
The Corps has considered a variety of options to improve stopping power in recent years. In 2007, it weighed fielding a 6.8mm weapon after rank-and-file troops assigned to U.S. Special Operations Command designed it with their command’s approval to address deficiencies in standard 5.56mm ammo. Neither SOCOM nor the Corps adopted it, in part because of the logistics and cost required. Gen. James Mattis, now commander of U.S. Central Command, advocated behind the scenes that the Corps consider adopting 6.8mm ammo as recently as last year, but the service adopted SOST ammo instead.
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