XM8 will have to compete

Army opens competition for replacement of M-16, M-4

The XM8, which has basically been running unopposed to replace the M16/M4 as the infantry’s standard weapon, will have to prove itself against other candidates.

The March 4 “Pre-solicitation Notice for the Objective Individual Combat Weapon Increment I family of weapons,” invites small-arms makers to try and meet an Army requirement for a “non developmental family of weapons that are capable of firing U.S. standard M855 and M856” 5.56mm ammunition.

The family would consist of carbine, compact, designated marksman and light machinegun models.

A formal Request for Proposal is slated to be issued “on or about” March 23, the notice states.

I saw this article this morning and wanted to look into the situation more before posting. This afternoon MO regular reader BigFire linked to me in a comment on Outside the Beltway (thanks, BF). Then, this evening, another reader passed on a link to another story in Army Times from today:

Army seeks to replace its lightest machine gun: XM-8 testing suspended pending contractor competition

It’s basically a more-detailed version of yesterday’s article, but it includes

The March 4 pre-solicitation notice, posted on the Internet, means the Army’s XM-8 program will have to prove it can outperform the rest of the small-arms industry before soldiers carry it into battle.

“We have halted testing to let the competition be completed,” said Col. Michael Smith, who runs Project Manager Soldier Weapons, the Army office that has been developing the XM-8.

Smith said the decision was made to hold off on operational tests slated for October because it’s unclear if XM-8’s maker, Heckler & Koch, will emerge the winner.

This is a bummer for those following the XM8 like rabid dogs. (Hey–I resemble that remark!)

I’m curious about these developments. Everything seemed to be coming along smoothly until initial production money was cut from the defense budget at the last minute late last year. Two brigades were to have been equipped with the XM8, but that plan was delayed. It was thought that the XM8 money would show up in a supplemental, but it didn’t happen. Then a Sources Sought Notice was issued in November for a 5.56-based weapons system that sounded suspiciously like the XM8. After some initial worry, we decided that it was just a paperwork CYA despite unconfirmed rumors that the XM8 had recently suffered a significant failure in testing.

Initial comparison of the November Sources Sought Notice and this one indicate to me that they’re asking for the same thing.

What’s going on? Why issue another for the exact same thing? I’d have to think that the major players would have submitted last fall about thirty seconds after the notice was issued for a chance to take this business away from H-K. Since the notice is for a “non-developmental family of weapons” no ‘good ideas’ are going to be accepted–only working weapons ready for production.

Also in today’s Army Times article:

In addition, to the carbine, compact, designated marksman models, the Army wants the family of weapons to include a light machine-gun model that would replace the M-249 SAW.

Currently, each infantry squad contains two SAWs that serve as light support weapons because of its 5.56mm ammunition and high-rate of fire.

The Infantry Center, which is the proponent for small arms for the Army, maintains that the SAW, while very popular with soldiers, has been in service since the early 1980s and is beginning to wear out.

“A lot of our SAWs are 20 years old,” said Maj. Glen Dean, the chief of small arms at the Infantry Center at Fort Benning, Ga. SAWs are rebuilt, he said, but often not fast enough to keep up with everyday wear and tear under combat conditions.

“You see soldiers carrying SAWs held together with the zip ties.”

I noted last September that the Army at that time said that the XM8 Automatic Rifle variant was not intended to replace the M249. That’s a good thing, as the XM8 doesn’t have quick-change barrels. Now all of a sudden they want to replace the M249 with a variant of an assault rifle family.

I’d like to point out that it was the same General Smith who said in September that the M249 was not going to be replaced now says that the M249 needs to be replaced because they’re held together with zip ties.

My guess is that there’s a lot more going on here than meets the eye.

MO will strive to keep you updated.

xm8du.jpgUPDATE: Now that I think about it, someone sent me a link to a Request For Quote this past weekend. It was for a “Visual Augmentation Kit for the M727 CQBR and M4A1 weapon systems” and came in a message with a digital signature. I meant to look into it further and didn’t. Maybe someone was trying to give me a heads up on this Sources Sought Notice and sent me the wrong one?

I’ve posted the entire text of the most recent Sources Sought Notice in the extended entry.

UPDATE 2: While digging for more info on this I came across an XM8 pic I hadn’t seen before at Defense Update.

FedBizOpps notice Date: 2005-03-04


Pre-Solicitation Notice for the Objective Individual Combat Weapon (OICW) Increment I family of weapons

Solicitation No. W15QKN-05-R-0449

The U.S. Army ARDEC, Picatinny Arsenal, NJ 07806-5000, on behalf of the Program Manager for Soldier Weapons (PM-SW), has a requirement for a non developmental family of weapons that are capable of firing U.S. standard M855 and M856 ammunition. The family consists of a Carbine, Special Compact (SC), Designated Marksman (DM), and Light Machine Gun (LMG) weapon systems. This endeavor will be conducted in three phases consisting of a System Design and Development (SDD) Phase, a Low Rate Initial Production (LRIP) Phase and a Full Rate Production (FRP) Phase.

The Carbine, SC and DM weapon systems shall share at least 80% parts commonality and shall share at least 50% commonality with the LMG. Each weapon system shall be equipped with a Multi Purpose Sighting System (MPSS) enabling the warfighter to rapidly and effectively engage stationary and moving targets both with reflexive fire at close ranges, and with precision fire out to the
maximum effective range of the variant (Carbine-500m, SC-150m, DM-600m, LMG-600m). All OICW Increment I weapon systems shall incorporate a resident limited visibility fire control with infrared aim light, illuminator and visible red laser pointer. The infrared aiming light and illuminator shall be greater than, or equal to the capability of the AN/PEQ-2A.

A properly zeroed OICW Increment I Carbine (zeroed to 300 meters), SC (zeroed to 150 meters), DM (zeroed to 300 and 500 meters), or LMG (zeroed to 300 meters) shall enable a warfighter firing from varying fighting positions, both
supported and unsupported to engage E-type silhouettes under conditions that include target exposure times from 3 to 8 seconds and targets moving 2 to 4 meters per second to the following metrics: Carbine (moving targets to 300m) with a Probability of Hit greater than .60 at 150m; SC (moving and stationary targets) with a Probability of Hit greater than .40 at 100m; DM (stationary targets, zeroed to 500m) with a Probability of Hit greater than .50 at 500m;
LMG (Hit on first 6-round burst against a single E-type silhouette in an 8 target array, zeroed to 300m) with a Probability of Hit greater than .04 at 600m.

The OICW Increment I Carbine, SC and DM shall demonstrate 18,000 Mean Rounds Between Essential Function Failure (MRBEFF) for Class III malfunctions (i.e., for non-operator correctable malfunctions which cause the loss of essential OICW Increment I functionality) and 2,300 MRBEFF for Class I and II malfunctions combined (Class I malfunctions are operator clearable within 10
seconds, whereas Class II malfunctions require more than 10 seconds but less than 10 minutes to clear but can be corrected by the operator with available equipment). The OICW Increment I LMG shall demonstrate 18,000 MRBEFF for Class III malfunctions and 1,900 MRBEFF for Class I and II malfunctions combined

The OICW Increment I Carbine, SC, DM weapon systems shall have a sustained rate of fire greater than or equal to 45 rounds per minute without degrading reliability. The OICW Increment I LMG weapon system’s sustained rate of fire shall be at a minimum of 72 rounds per minute for ten minutes without degrading reliability and accuracy.

All OICW Increment I weapon systems shall have a minimum barrel life of 15,000 rounds.

All Proposals will include written submissions and test (bid) samples, both of will be 60 days after Solicitation release. A pre-solicitation or a pre-proposal conference will be conducted at a later date (to be determined).

The offeror shall submit four (4) of each variant for a total of sixteen (16) complete weapon systems, along with sufficient spare parts, to the Government for bid sample testing no later than the closing date of the solicitation.

Should an offeror’s bid samples pass through the initial and subsequent go/no go screening criteria, the samples will be evaluated with live fire to demonstrate the weapon systems’ ability to meet the system requirements.

The winning offeror will be awarded a contract for test quantities to proceed to a Milestone C decision, if required. After satisfying the requirements for a Milestone C decision, Low Rate Initial Production (LRIP) quantities (up to 4,900 weapon systems) shall be produced. Subsequent to the production of LRIP quantities, the Government may award multiple Full Rate Production (FRP) options to the winning offeror (up to 134,500 total weapon systems if the total number of options are exercised).

The OICW Increment I family of weapons is intended to replace current weapon systems to include the M4, M16, M249 and selected M9 pistols for the active army.

A Request for Proposal (RFP) to be posted on the TACOM-ARDEC Acquisition Center website located at: http://procnet.pica.army.mil is planned for release on or about 23 March 2005. Proposals, along with sixteen (16) bid samples, are required to be delivered within sixty (60) days from the date the RFP is released. Point of contact for this requirement is Mr. David DeCandia, Contract Specialist, AMSTA-AQ-APD, BLDG 10, Picatinny Arsenal, NJ 07806-5000, email: decandia@pica.army.mil, telephone number: 973-724-4674.


  1. I hope Robarm or another american company can come up with a good competing design. I think it’s a shame that almost all of our weapons come from overseas. I just don’t understand why they are sticking with the 5.56. We need a better LMG, and that’s for sure. The ones at my unit (and they haven’t even been shot all that much) are wearing out. One of the big deficiencies is that the receiver is made out of thin metal stampings, and it just can’t take the heat. It warps due to the temperature it reaches while firing long bursts. The guns get ‘loose’, and then you have to put zip ties on to keep the top of the receiver lined up with the bottom. We need to go back to an MG42 type. Make a better M-60, the ‘hog’ rocked.

  2. Enough already, Just Hurry! The M-16 family is long overdue for replacement. Take the XM-8 and run it against every decent rifle submitted. I would hope variants of the Steyr Aug, G-36 (besides the XM-8), FA-Mas, FN, Tavor, and maybe the SAR-21 are tested. (It would be pretty embarrassing if a French rifle won.) Maybe Barrett, Colt or Springfield has a killer prototype they’ve been sitting on. Let’s try them all. Let some real grunts drag them through mud, snow, rain, and sand for a few months. Fire them under all conditions testing for accuracy and reliability. Determine the winner and start buying them in huge quantities. Everyone is going to post about what type of rifle should be selected (Bull-pup vs. traditional, etc…) and which one in their opinion is the best. I don’t care. If the tests are fair and evenhanded, the grunts can tell us which one is the best. Just do it! We need something better. From a Soldier and former Marine.

  3. As I understand it in the XM8 family the DMR and the LMG are going to be the exact same weapon. If they replace the SAW with the XM8 LMG how many of this DMR/LMG are going to be in each squad? Three? Four? Five? Is compatibility with a future XM-29 a requirement because that could eliminate all of the bullpup designs?

  4. XM-29 has gone the way of the dodo bird. Too big, too heavy, not cost effective. The XM-25 could replace the M-203 as the squad grenade launcher, with the grenadier using a PDW version XM-8 for ‘kinetic kill’ weaponry. The DMD and LMG are actually very different, even though they look similar. They both have longer, heavier barrels and bipods. The LMG version needs to have a quick-change barrel, which I’m not sure if it does(any certainties there, Murdoc?). The DMR has a 3.5 or 4X optical sight, where the rest of the variants have a 1x red dot sight. The LMG should also be capable of firing from a belt, or have a larger capacity magazine (100 round minimum) and also have some type of cooling mechanism for the barrel (cold CO2 or freon or some such that is blown over the barrel between shots. I’d go with CO2, we could just put the 12 gram capsules in the buttstock or handguards.).

  5. I read somewhere maybe here that they decided to combine the DMR and LMG into one weapon to save money(same barrel, same bi-pod, etc.) I agree the optics and magazine will be different but the base unit will be the same. I have not seen any info on belt-feed or quick change barrel on the XM8 LMG it is simply an XM8 with a heavy 20 inch barrel, bi-pod, and 100 rd Beta-C magazine. The should replace the SAW and the M240 with the FN Mk. 48 model 0 7.62mm Ligtweight Machinegun that some Spec-Ops troops are using.

  6. Mostly I agree with your choice of replacement for the saw, except I think it needs a beefier milled receiver, rather than stampings.

  7. Bram, for reasons of PHB, no bullpups will be under considerations. The heavy 20′ barreled autoamic rifle variant will not replace the m249 (or some thing like it), as a cartridge-compatible lightweight portable mountable beltfed machinegun still has a niche to fill, even if it overlaps between the rifle and a heavy machinegun.

  8. What’s PHB? Why are we excluding half or more of the best modern military rifles from consideration? I’m trying to think of current non-bull pup rifles to compete other than the G-36 (which is essentially the XM-8 competing against itself). AK’s? Daewoo? Sig ? (that might be cool) M-16’s? I’m at work so I can’t cruise over to World Guns to see what’s out there for good traditional rifles. As I posted elsewhere, I don’t understand the Army’s obsession with making rifles shorter. If they really want a short rifle, there are only two choices: a bull-pup design, or a very short barrel. I personally don’t care if the new rifle is shorter than the M-16 – its length never bothered me. However, if I have to chose between a between a carbine with a 12.5′ barrel and a bull-pup with a 20′ barrel, I will chose the bull-pup every time. Excluding bull-pups makes me think this is just a coronation for the XM-8, not a competition.

  9. argh! …and the reasoning is that A) the PHBs don’t want anything too different in terms of handling from what we have had before; and B) on most bullpups changing a magazine requires handling the rifle in such a way as to lose sighting of targets downrange, apparantly not an issue with standard rifles.

  10. Gab, If you dont know about the FN SCAR, I have heard some of the special forces,(including the Rangers) are looking into it. The Marines are sticking with the M16A4, but the ‘Big Army,’ as I’ve read, is still putting the XM8 up in the air. My question is, is the Big Army probably going to go with the XM8? Or the FN SCAR? Also, I have read the Combat Arms magazine, and they even said that the XM8 isnt denied, yet. It is all a matter of time.

  11. What I meant was that potential contenders for the rifle position could include (and most probably will) the contenders that ran the SCAR competition. They included: -FN SCAR (winner) -HK XM8 (i read it was modified for the competition) -COBB MCR 200 (disqualified because of loose rail??) -Robison Arms XCR (disqualified because RA forgot the blank firer attachment) -Colt M5 IMO The fact that FN allready won the SCAR competition may give it a head start, but the others have had time since then to modify and improve their designs. Who knows maybe other companies may hand in proposals (Barrett M468?) Just my 2 cents

  12. Many good rifles are discussed above, but you have to remember, it’s going to take a huge amount of abuse. Many of the current bullpup designs do not take into account the ‘left handed’ shooter, and therefore spit hot brass right into the shooters face. They also tend to not have the ‘recoil’ absorber in the butt of the weapon, due to the overall length that would require. We’re dealing with more and more ‘non-shooters’ coming into the military all the time. (As the MSM portrays guns as ‘bad’, ‘evil’, and ‘redneck’) Fewer and fewer recruits come into the military with the ‘shooting fundamentals’ already learned. The less recoil they have to learn with, the better. I personally like the idea of going to the 6.5mm Grendel more and more. I think the XM-8 looks like a really well done weapon, and can’t wait to get my hands on one, I just hope they’ll modify the ‘SAW’ version to a quick change barrel, and build 100 rd. magazines. I’m also hoping they’ll change the caliber to 6.5mm Grendel, or (second choice) 6.8mm SPC.

  13. ZM Weapons of Bernardston, Mass., might not be the subject of everyday conversations among military shooters, but the company’s showing at this year’s Shoot-out marks a good beginning in changing that. ZM is one of the many small weapons houses that have attempted to take Eugene Stoner’s M16 design to new heights. In this case, ZM succeeded. The company’s LR300 line includes an LR300ML (Military/Law Enforcement) ‘top-end’ kit n++ an upper assembly receiver n++ plus a folding stock assembly and pistol grip. All components can be mated with M16/AR15 lowers without modifications. Select-fire weapons outfitted with the kit require just a single-hole modification in the lower receiver. ZM’s 5.56 conversion kit sports an 11n++-inch barrel with a Phantom flash suppressor. Thanks in part to a new type of interconnecting operating rod gas system, diverted felt recoil is significantly reduced and the weapon has minimal muzzle rise. A folding stock and flat top receiver, capable of accepting all Weaver-type mounts, make it a prime candidate for forced-entry teams and for use in other tight situations. ‘Where have these guys been? This is the most adaptable M4/M16 system and subsystems I have seen,’ an evaluator wrote. ‘Who’d they [tick] off?’ ‘Both weapons shot great! I love the folding stock n++ it makes the weapon much smaller than our current M4,’ another noted. ‘Incredible recoil control,’ said a third. ‘Firing on full auto, I put nearly every round into the target.’ ‘Great trigger pull,’ another said. ‘It would be a great compact weapon for use in Humvees and other tactical vehicles.’ ‘The best carbine-length AR solution going,’ wrote another evaluator. ‘It was 100 percent reliable and is as compact as they come.’ The only negative point noted by the evaluators concerned the amount of muzzle blast produced by one of the demo models. He went on to say, however, he liked the weapon’s ‘very controllable recoil on full auto.’ http://www.armedforcesjournal.com/blackwater/analysis8.html

  14. Thank you Sam. I did not realize Pointy Haired Boss had become an acronym. Also – Anyone who can quickly reload his M-16 while keeping a target in the sights is much more talented than I am. (I can imagine doing it slowly but not sure what the benefit is) Sam: Good bull-pups like the Steyr are adjustable for left-handed shooters so the brass ejects to the left. Some crappy ones do not, but I assume they would not get far in this competition anyhow. I think this is just a demonstration to show that the XM-8 is the best choice (whether it is or not). A way to cover ass and not get into a situation like the Boeing tankers.

  15. Thank you Sam. I did not realize Pointy Haired Boss had become an acronym. Also – Anyone who can quickly reload his M-16 while keeping a target in the sights is much more talented than I am. (I can imagine doing it slowly but not sure what the benefit is) Sam: Good bull-pups like the Steyr are adjustable for left-handed shooters so the brass ejects to the left. Some crappy ones do not, but I assume they would not get far in this competition anyhow. I think this is just a demonstration to show that the XM-8 is the best choice (whether it is or not). A way to cover ass and not get into a situation like the Boeing tankers.

  16. I think this is just a demonstration to show that the XM-8 is the best choice (whether it is or not). A way to cover ass and not get into a situation like the Boeing tankers.’ Like the demonstration to show that the Stryker is better than the M113, whether it is or not? You may be onto something. It seems these days, military ‘competitions’ are for show rather than effect. I don’t get why ALL roles aren’t open to competition. Competition was used more in the past and look at the fruit they bore. Both the F-16 and F-18 (well, almost) came out of the same competition. The YF-22 and YF-23 competition also had two excellent submissions. Sadly, this sort of thing seems to be out of favour in these days of NorthropGrummanBoeingMcDonallGeneralDynamics type companies. (OK, so not all of those guys have merged yet, but the way things are going, they probably will :I)