Army acquires rights to M4

This is a discussion on Army acquires rights to M4 within the Defensive Rifles & Shotgun Discussion forums, part of the Related Topics category; Army acquires rights to M4 By Matthew Cox - Staff writer Posted : Tuesday Jul 7, 2009 20:59:55 EDT As of July 1, the Army ...

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    Army acquires rights to M4

    Army acquires rights to M4
    By Matthew Cox - Staff writer
    Posted : Tuesday Jul 7, 2009 20:59:55 EDT
    As of July 1, the Army has taken control of the design rights to the M4 carbine from its sole maker, Colt Defense LLC. Translation: With an uncertain budget looming, the service is free to give other gun companies a crack at a carbine contract.

    The transition of ownership of the M4 technical data package marks the end of an era and Colt’s exclusive status as the only manufacturer of the M4 for the U.S. military for the past 15 years.

    In late November, Army senior leadership announced the service’s intent to open a competition for a new carbine this fall in preparation for the June 30 expiration date of Colt’s hold on the M4 licensing agreement.

    The Army is slated to finish fielding the last of its 473,000 M4 requirement some time next year.

    Army weapons officials maintain that it’s good to have the option of inviting other gun companies to compete to make the M4 as it is now, if the need arises, said Col. Doug Tamilio, project manager for soldier weapons.

    “We probably won’t do anything with it right now. ... We have what we need,” Tamilio said. “The good news is we will own it now; that gives us the flexibility to do what we need it to do.”

    Small-arms companies waiting for the chance to compete for the Army’s next carbine view Colt’s loss of the M4 TDP as a new beginning for the industry and for soldiers serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    “Now that the sole-source era is over, we hope to see free and open competition of any interim or long-term solution for the service rifle or carbine for the American soldier,” said Jason Schauble, vice president of the military products division of Remington. “Now there is a chance to get something better in the hands of the soldier. Why not do it? If Colt wins again, God bless them.”

    Colt officials didn’t respond to a request for comment by press time.

    Some in the small-arms industry say Colt’s 15-year control over the M4 is a natural part of the gun-making business.

    “If a company designs and develops a product, they don’t do that for fun; they have a whole factory of people to feed,” said George Kontis, who is now the vice president of business development for Knights Armament Company but has worked for multiple small-arms firms since 1967.

    “This is not anything new in history. It has always happened this way,” he said.

    THE NEXT COMPETITION
    For now, the Army is planning to begin a competition in October that could produce a new carbine by sometime in 2012, but there are no guarantees, weapons officials maintain.

    Before that can happen, the Army’s updated carbine requirement — the document that lays out what the service wants in the future weapon — still has to clear the senior Army leadership and win joint approval, he said.

    Funding is another uncertainty, he said. The Army can’t begin the request for proposal process this year if the fiscal 2010 defense authorization bill doesn’t include the start-up costs for the venture, Tamilio said.

    “I don’t need a lot of money,” Tamilio said. “I think it’s less than $10 million for fiscal year 2010. ... It’s obviously tied into the president’s budget in 2010.”

    Colt still owns the TDP for the M16 rifle, but its status as the sole supplier for the military ended in the late 1980s, when FN Manufacturing LLC won its first contract. The Army still uses versions of the M16, but stopped buying them when it decided to field M4s to all deploying combat units in 2006.

    The M4 became the subject of congressional scrutiny in 2007 when lawmakers expressed concerned about whether soldiers had the best available weapon.

    In November 2007, the weapon finished last in an Army reliability test against other carbines. The M4 suffered more stoppages than the combined number of jams by the other three competitors: the Heckler & Koch XM8; FNH USA’s Special Operations Forces Combat Assault Rifle, or SCAR; and the H&K 416.

    Army weapons officials agreed to perform the dust test after a July 2007 request by Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla. Coburn took up the issue after a Feb. 26, 2007, Army Times report on moves by elite Army special operations units to ditch the M4 in favor of carbines they consider more reliable.

    U.S. Special Operations Command decided to move away from the M4 in November 2004 when the command awarded a developmental contract to FN Herstal to develop its SCAR to replace its M4s and older M16s.

    In November, gun makers from across the country attended an Army small-arms industry day in November designed to give weapons officials a look at what is available on the commercial market. There, Army Secretary Pete Geren announced that he had directed the Army’s Infantry Center at Fort Benning, Ga., to update the carbine requirement in preparation for a search for a replacement for the M4.

    “If there are no significant issues, I think [the updated requirement] can move through” the Army validation process and receive the blessing of the Joint Requirements Oversight Council, Tamilio said.

    If that happens, the Army plans to release a draft request for proposal to the small-arms industry in October and a formal RFP early next year, weapons officials maintain.

    The first round of testing will likely begin late next summer and last though summer 2011.

    Once a weapon is selected in late fiscal 2011, weapons officials hope to have operational testing and a full rate-production decision by late summer in 2012, Tamilio said.

    One of the most critical parts of this process will be the three to five months between the draft RFP and the release of the formal RFP, when the industry has the chance to digest and understand what the Army wants in a new carbine, he said.

    “Those discussions we have with industry will be vital to getting the real RFP on the street and that should really make for a solid competition,” he said.

    Army acquires rights to M4 - Army News, news from Iraq, - Army Times

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    I read an artcile about the SCAR, made alot of sense to me that the socom would move towards a platform that could perform mulitiple roles and utilize both calibers commonly used today, why wouldn't the army follow suit?

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    BAC
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    Because the FN rifle still has little bugs and has yet to impress really anyone in the military. It got a better reception than the XM-8, but that's not saying much.


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    Ok, I see, thanks.

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    The OP is interesting, but I still doubt this means a move away from the M4/M16/AR platfom, for PR, economic, and military politics.

    Politics: Consider how long Italy keep troops in Iraq. How Italy agreed to increase the their troops in Afghanistan. Then what do you know, Beretta gets a few more orders for the M9 (92F). Then look at HK's XM8 & 416. Both looked at really closely. However , the German government keep stressing they will have nothing to do with the ongoing war in Iraq. I think this lead to the U.S. military wanting nothing to do with HK. Now FN (yes Belgium, yet the Herstal Group has a lot of ties in the U.S.). In addition, if I'm not mistaken Belgium has been very supportive in Afghanistan (unlike Germany, who may pull away from even guard duty).

    Then there is the PR hit if Colt were to lose jobs, with CEO William M. Keys (retired U.S. Marine Lt. General), headquartered in the U.S. (Connecticut). In addition, does the military budget even allow for a change.

    Then the firearm. Do the other platforms really offer much of an advancement. From what I've read, no, not really. Considering logistics, I don't think the military will change cartridges. However, I'm wondering if they move away from one rifle for all environments. There is the often mentioned "extreme dust" concern with the M4, and I think the FN SCAR may be issued to troops in desert environments.

    So for the money, I bet you see a change, say in 2012. More importantly, even if a few forces are issued something like the FN SCAR (beyond SF), I would still bet the M4/M16/AR will remain the most common (and the FN Scar will make few inroads to LE agencies).

    Lastly, I'm wondering how much of the OP has to do with home grown politics (aka the White House does not like the leadership at Colt).
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    BAC
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    Thanis, I'm not following any of what you said. What Italy does or has done has never had any effect on US purchases of the Beretta M9. The XM-8 project was abandoned because the rifle sucks, and the 416 is as much an interest as the FN SCAR: it's just another rifle that a company's trying to put forth to compete with and eventually replace the current M4.

    What this does is indicate publicly that anyone offering a competing weapons platform can now do so seriously. It means that after the current batch of rifles slated to be made and sold to .gov are up, then Colt will now have to compete with other companies to either continue to make the M4, or to bid for being the provider of the next weapon should we move away from the M4 as the standard service rifle. Nothing more or less, really. Has there ever been any talk of a change in weapons platform in our nation's history that has not been "about politics"?


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    BAC, I don't agree. I don't see HK getting a contract to provide the U.S. military with a firearm due to the policies of the German government. In addition, I believe one factor in the receint M9 orders has been Italy's military support.

    But I admit, this is only my weakly informed opinion.
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    that H&K seems really cool

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    Another viable option with a not a newbie history as available in rifle, carbine, and SBR.


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    I'm speaking about something that I have limited knowledge about, but it seems to me that the politics has alsways played a part in the military's selection of firearms.

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