Back in January of 2004, I wrote this:
The XM8 seems to be an aberration in the military procurement sector.
I was referring, specifically, to the fact that the weapon seemed to be an improvement on all fronts over its predecessor and that the cost wasn’t spiraling out of control. Another aberration from standard operating procedure was the fact that the program had moved along pretty quickly and appeared ready to field production weapons on schedule.
That, of course, was in January of 2004.
As readers of this site will no doubt know, the XM8 program has run into a number of snags since that time, most glaringly a new Sources Sought Notice for assault rifle manufacturers and the inclusion of light machine gun requirements into the specification.
Here’s the latest amendment:
The purpose of this Amendment is to temporarily suspend all action on Solicitation W15QKN-05-R-0449, OICW Increment One. The Solicitation will be suspended pending completion of a final requirements review. The duration of this suspension is anticipated to be approximately eight (8) weeks.
Any offeror intending to continue work on proposal submissions during this suspension, must do so at their own risk.
The solicitation closing date will also be extended beyond 07 November 2005. An extension to the closing date will be determined when the suspension is lifted, and all action on the subject Solicitation has resumed.
In addition, a second Amendment will be posted informing all potential offerors, that action on the subject Solicitation has resumed.
As in “stop whatever it is you’re doing until we figure out what we’re doing”.
The Army’s proposal has received interest from the other military services, and is further supported by several internal reviews reinforcing the increase in the potential for joint use.
Congressional notification has been made and today’s suspension of the program allows joint requirements to be viewed and incorporated through the Joint Capability and Integration and Development System process, which will occur immediately. Original solicitation started May 11, 2005, and is temporarily suspended effective July 19, 2005, until the Joint Requirements Oversight Committee (JROC) convenes, which is currently scheduled for early September.
Upon the JROC’s completion, the committee will issue a memorandum, which incorporates any new joint OICW-1 requirements. The RFP will be amended accordingly, and issued with a revised effective date for receipt of proposals.
This basically means that the other services have shown an interest in the OICW-1 program and want to get their two cents in before decisions are made.
No doubt, before all is said and done, the weapons will incorporate parachutes for the Air Force and Mae Wests for the Navy. The Marines will be laughing because they decided in March of 2004 to go with the M16A4 instead of the XM8.
Two brigades were already supposed to have the XM8. Now it will be September before the final requirements for a new weapon are even determined. Several months, at least, will be given for manufacturers to digest these and submit proposals. Then samples will have to be built and tested and the competition really begins.
In other words, don’t hold your breath for a new assault rifle.
I’ll post more on this as more info becomes available.
In the meantime, here is some additional coverage at Defense Industry Daily. Also, be sure to check out this summary of the Army’s small-arms plan in National Defense Magazine if you haven’t already done so.
Also, while browsing the some responses to questions and comments regarding the solicitation I came across some that might be of interest to MO readers. Sort of an OICW supplier’s FAQ:
>>Barrel life of 15001 rounds would be major strength, 14999 rounds would be major weakness. We recommend creating a range for the strength factor. What is the firing and maintenance schedule and what kind of ammo is used to determine barrel life?
The government has addressed this issue and is reflected in the updated the RFP. The following: Barrel wear will be measured at intervals of 1,000 rounds. 15,000 rounds is the threshold requirement. As stated in section L, M855 ammunition will be used. Maintenance will be system dependent. Firing schedule will be in 30 rd complements: First is semi-automatic @ 1 rd/sec; then a 30-rd complement of 3 rd bursts every 5-sec. Each cycle is 120 rounds. Gun will then be allowed to cool before resuming testing.
>>Please explain why it is necessary for the LMG to mount a bayonet.
It is a requirement of the family that all variants except the Special Compact mount a bayonet.
>>Inert Weapons – the requirement for inert weapons will significantly impact the delivery of standard weapons and should be delayed until after the delivery of the first contract weapons. In addition, additional details are required to define what will actually be required in order that they do not meet the requirements of functional firearms.
The Government does not believe delivery of these items should impact the delivery of functional weapons.These specific deliverables are to be non-weapons specifically constructed as such so as to not be subject to the regulatory requirements for small arms required of the United States Government. The intent is to permit legally unconstrained transportation, storage and display for educational and instructive purposes. Since the intent of this hardware is for display and educational purposes, it is required that the exterior of these replicas be as close in appearance and feel as practical to the “real” weapons they are modeled after while maintaining their non-weapon legal status.
>>Test Support Package – this states that a number of rifle variants will be endurance tested to 18,000 rounds and LMGs to 50,000 rounds. Since this is not mentioned anywhere else in the RFP, are these life requirements for OICW variants?
No. It is planned that follow on Production Prove-out Testing (post-contract award) will require firing of 18,000 rounds per weapon. The round count is provided to allow offerors the ability to estimate spare parts requirements.
>>Is the visible white light required to be part of the primary fire control or can it be an attachable flashlight as required by sections C.188.8.131.52 and M.9.5.i?
It can be submitted as an attachable device or as part of the primary fire control.
>>The LMG is required to only fire fully automatically. Please explain if this does not conflict with sections M.8.1.j and M.11.1.b and section 3.5.11 of the performance spec that require the ability of all variants to fire in semi and full auto. Can we submit a LMG that fires fully automatically only?
The requirement is to provide a reconfigurable family of weapons where one variant may be configurable to another. Per doctrine, the primary firing mode of the LMG is full automatic fire. Submission of an LMG with full automatic fire only will be evaluated accordingly (reference ID 1.30).
>>If reliability testing may go to 18,000 rounds, is there a minimum round life requirement for each variant of the OICW family of weapons?
At this time, the Government is testing only for reliability and barrel life. Weapon life testing will not be conducted.
>>Evaluation standards – this sections requires that the magazines be improved over current fielded magazines in terms of ruggedness and reliability. This is not mentioned in the performance standard. Is it a requirement? How will this be determined?
Magazines will be evaluated during competition as part of the system. The magazines will not be evaluated separately for ruggedness and reliability at this time.
>>This states that the LMG will be fired at a rate of 72 rounds per minute for ten minutes (720 rounds). This is more ammunition than the gunner will have available. Please explain why this is not for 600 rounds as described in section 3.8.9 of the performance spec.
72 rounds per minute for ten minutes is a technical requirement. Para 3.8.9 of the performance specification establishes cook-off levels only. Please note that bid samples will be evaluated against criteria in sections L & M only, not the P-spec.
>>Please explain how it will be determined if the primary Fire Control is compatible with the current AN/PVS-7 and AN/PVS-14.
Utilizing an AN/PVS-7 and AN/PVS-14, test personnel will function the fire control IR lasers to determine if they are visible to the tester.
>>How will variants be rated if they equal the weight of the current system?
If variants weights are equal to current systems, they will be rated as a strength. RFP has been updated to reflect this change.
>>Aural or visual detection – the requirement is for the external color to be consistent with current camouflage colors and patterns. What color? Brown? Green? In pattern? Please provide additional information.
The weapon color is not specified. However, the guidance is that it shall be of varying, neutral color shades found in the Army Battle Dress Uniform, Desert Combat Uniform, or the Advanced Combat Uniform. The color shall be such that it prevents or reduces solar loading. Please note that the Performance Spec has been amended to include a requirement that the weapon be a color other than black. However, there is no color requirement for the bid samples.
>>Area suppression lethality module – what is the minimum life required for firing 40mm grenades? Will the requirement be to mount the M203 or the XM320? If it is for the XM320, will we be provided a sample (or drawings of the interface) to determine compliance for attachment?
There shall be no degradation in reliability or damage to the host weapon system. The requirement is to provide attachment points that serve as recoil bearing surfaces to withstand the recoil forces generated by the ASLM. It is possible that the ASLM interface can be modified (if required) to mount on the OICW Increment I.
>>Acoustic and blast suppressor compatibility – since no suppressor is required as part of the OICW submission, is it required to fit some specific suppressor or is some specific mount required?
Not being evaluated under the Bid Sample Tests.
>>Sling – please define “quick release type fasteners”.
Fasteners that can be attached/removed quickly and without tools. For example, pushing a button to release a latch. No screws.
>>Collapsible/adjustable bipod – please define how much adjustment is required for the bipod. Please define what is meant by “minimum torque TBD ft-lbs in the direction opposite of the forward movement”.
The Performance Specification para 3.6.15 has been updated to reflect the following requirement. The DM and LMG shall have a collapsible and adjustable bipod. The bipod, shall have a collapsed length from the centerline of the bore of no more than 10.75 inches. When extended, the length of the bipod shall be no less than 14.0 inches when measured from the centerline of the bore. When extended/open, the bipod shall be able to withstand a minimum impact energy of 88.40 lbf-ft at an angle of 55 degrees without collapsing or loss of functionality.
>>Accessory attachment points – please explain what is meant by “capable of alignment with respect to the barrel, accurately, and repeat ably”. Fixed rails are designed to be parallel to the barrel. Are permanent/fixed rails considered to be integral and will they meet the objective?
The sentence “capable of alignment with respect to the barrel, accurately, and repeatably” refers to being able to remove and mount the sight or other FC accessory and maintain alignment with the barrel. Permanent/fixed rails may meet this requirement.
>>Resident accessories power – please explain if this requires one central power supply to be used for all resident accessories.
As a threshold, a common type power source means, for example, a battery that is available commercially and easily procured. The objective requirement is to operate from a single, central power supply.
>>Round counter – please explain if this can also be used to replace requirement 3.8.6 for inventory with an automated system. Also, please explain what is meant by “powered from the OICW common type power source”. We are unaware of any round counter that can count, give date and time and differentiate between ball and blank rounds. Please provide information on what type of interface will be required. Please provide information that is TBD. Will this be based on battery life or equipment life? Can the round counter be integrated with the Fire Control?
This requirement is separate from 3.8.6. However, it is not exclusive, if the offeror can combine the two, that may be beneficial. Powered from the OICW common type power source means uses the same battery type. Interface with the rounds counter is up to the offeror to determine. There is no TBD on this requirement. While the round counter may be integrated into the FC, it must remain with the weapon if the FC is removed.
>>Workmanship – should the section “hammering to shape” be interpreted to not allow hammer-forged barrels or does it only apply to repair operations?
“Hammering to shape” refers only to repair operations during manufacturing of the weapons.
>>Can you please specify the Threshold and Objective goals for weapon unit weight? There are conflicting numbers in the specification.
The weights have been updated to reflect the weights as shown in sections L&M. The Carbine system should weigh no more than 9.19 lbs, which is equivalent to an M4 MWS with an M68, BUIS, PEQ-2A, visible red laser pointer, white light flashlight, and empty magazine. The SC system should weigh no more than 8.39 lbs which is equivalent to a modified M4 MWS with a ten (10) inch barrel, an M68, BUIS, PEQ-2A, visible red laser pointer, white light flashlight, and empty magazine. The DM system should weigh no more than 11.43 lbs which is equivalent to an M16A4 MWS with an ACOG, BUIS, PEQ-2A, Harris bipod, visible red laser pointer, white light flashlight, and empty magazine. The LMG system should weigh no more than 16 lbs without sling or ammunition.
>>The specification asks for a “family of stocks” for the rifle but provides no information about what capabilities and requirements are being met. Please provide specifics as to what this “family of stocks” should be able to accomplish and whether a universal stock capable of meeting all specs & requirements would be equally acceptable.
A family of stocks refer to interchangeable stocks that may be used on any variant. E.g. if the Carbine has a standard stock, and the DM has a DM specific stock, the soldier may interchange them as needed for the mission. Specific stocks are based on the offeror, and are not mandatory. As long as the requirements for each variant are met (size and weight), a universal stock is acceptable.
>>Section M.11.1.a states that it will be considered a weakness if a single weapon is capable of performing multiple roles within the OICW family. Can the Army please provide a justification for this rating? If a manufacturer can produce a single weapon that meets all of the performance requirements, e.g., for the Carbine and Special Compact rifles, why would the Army specifically choose to have multiple models with different logistic needs in inventory? Similarly, if a Carbine is capable of meeting the accuracy requirements of the Designated Marksman rifle, why would it be considered a negative that all of the delivered Carbines would be suitable for use as a DM weapon?
The RFP has been updated to reflect that a weapon system that is capable of serving dual roles and meet the requirements, will not be rated negatively.