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:
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.
UPDATE: 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: email@example.com, telephone number: 973-724-4674.