Posted : Sunday Sep 26, 2010
The M4 will not compete in the forthcoming carbine competition, according to the colonel in charge. But, he adds, the winner will have to score “a knockout” if it expects to replace the Army’s primary weapon for the past 20 years.
The announcement comes amid skepticism by some industry leaders who have questioned whether the Army is serious about getting a new carbine at all.
“It is my belief if given the choice tomorrow, the Army would not compete a new rifle,” said Darren Mellors, executive vice president of LWRC International. “They would like to buy more M4 carbines sole-sourced from Colt with a few hand picked incremental improvements.”
Mellors said there are “valid reasons” for this, and acknowledged the M4 as a “highly successful platform” that has served America’s war fighters well. Mellors, like many other weapons manufacturers, believes he has a better weapon — but he isn’t sure if “better” will be good enough.
“The key word the Army is using is ‘measurable improvement,’ ” he said. “Measurable improvement will be the downfall of any contender in a competition if the Army uses the standard testing protocol the M4 was designed to pass.”
Many manufacturers with whom Army Times spoke echoed the sentiment.
Mellors’ solution is to allow industry to propose tests or objective requirements. “If they are going to ask industry for a solution, it has to be in a format where we can demonstrate value to the war fighter and the Army,” he said. “All we want is a level and wide-open playing field.”
Col. Douglas Tamilio, project manager for soldier weapons, was adamant that the competition will be exactly that.
“For someone to say that we’re not full and open or that we’re not serious about this is absolutely crazy,” he said. “We couldn’t survive.”
The Army will “spend over $30 million of taxpayer money just in testing to make sure we get this right,” he said. That means there will be congressional oversight. In addition, the Office of the Secretary of Defense will monitor test and evaluation, and the Army chief of staff is getting regular briefings.
“In short, the best weapon is going to win, and I don’t care who that is,” Tamilio said.
The carbine competition is one half of a “dual path strategy” designed to give soldiers the best possible weapon. The strategy will make M4 improvements while simultaneously inviting industry to design a new carbine that can outperform the M4.
All of the major players are expected to compete. A few of the notable submissions include:
• The XCR by Robinson Armament Co.
• The M6A4 IAR, or similar variant, from LWRC.
• The Adaptive Combat Rifle by Remington.
• The SR-16 by Knight Armament Co.
• The SCAR by FNH.
• Colt will be looking to keep its corner on the market, and is likely to submit more than a dozen variants in the competition, including the CM901.