XM8 in holding pattern

New Army rifle gets more tests (free subscription required)

The XM8, which had $26 million axed from the defense budget last month, is not dead. It’s just waiting.

Military and legislative officials say development and testing of the new XM8 assault rifle will run through December. It will be the second round of tests for the highly anticipated rifle, with evaluations taking place in the desert near Yuma, Ariz., the tropical jungles of Panama, and the arctic climate in Alaska, said Col. Mike Smith, who oversees the XM8 testing program at Picatinny Arsenal in northern New Jersey.

“After this round of testing, we will present our findings and our ability to meet the requirements, which are developed at Fort Benning, to the Army leadership, which should be in the late February time frame,” Smith said. “Then they’ll make a decision on how to go forward on the program, and how fast to go forward on the program.”

The $26 million was cut from the budget at the last minute. That money would have gone to start-up costs and production of weapons to outfit two infantry brigades.

Like most military projects, if at first you don’t succeed, just try, try again. Not in the budget? Well, there are LOTS of budgets. Two weeks ago in the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer:

The next chance for the XM8 program to receive money for manufacturing and procurement of the rifle will be when Congress reconvenes Sept. 7, said Brian Robinson, communications director for Gingrey.

“We’re going to do everything we can to get this into the next supplemental budget,” Robinson said. “We understand what happened and we want to fix it as soon as we can.”

Should funding come through this year, Smith, the XM8 project manager at Picatinny Arsenal, said the XM8 could be in soldiers’ hands as soon as summer 2005. If not, the weapon would definitely be in the 2006 budget and make its way into the ranks by that spring.

Too bad Congress won’t make approval contingent upon proof that the 5.56 round is the best.

For more on the XM8, check out MO’s XM8 & XM25 Category.