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FN Gets New Army M4A1 Contract

At the end of last month the U.S. Army awarded FN Manufacturing, the U.S. owned company of FN Herstal, of Belgium a contract to upgrade M4 rifles to the new M4A1 standard. . FN Manfuacturing will do the work at their plant in South Carolina. The contract has a value of about $77 million if all options are executed.

UP to this contract all M4 production and other work had been done by Colt Defense. Over the last several years the Army has gone back and forth with this company on contracts and costs. The Army has also tried several times to purchase a weapon to replace the M16 and M4, which is basically a shortened version of that venerable rifle.

FN has already has had contracts with the U.S. military to make the M16 and recently M240 machine guns. They were also the initial producer of the M249 SAW.

The problem for Colt is that it may see one of its largest product lines move to other producers as time continues. This contract will just upgrade existing M4 rifles. The next contract may be for production moving to FN or another supplier. It may be a whole different system from Colt, FN or some other small arms company.

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Army’s M4 Follies Continue

The United States military has over the last decade become to rely on the M4 carbine model of the standard M16 rifle. This is basically a M16 with a shorter barrel that was found more useful in the close combat fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. The M4 originally was intended to supplement the M16 as a vehicle crew weapon. Since 2001 the U.S. Army has bought thousands of M4 from privately owned Colt.

The M4 has had a mixed combat record with complaints about range, jamming and stopping power. The Army has since 1990 tried multiple times to build a new replacement rifle for the M16 most recently with the cancelled XM-8 system. This does live on in the form of the XM-25 Punisher version which is a squad level weapon that fires 25mm airburst rounds. This is manufactured by Alliant Techsystems (ATK) and is seeing trials in Afghanistan.

Like a great deal of weapons the Army has relied on a sole source for the M4. They do own the technical data and in April awarded a production contract to rival Remington. Colt protested that decision.

Now the Government Accountability Office (GAO) has ruled on the protest upholding Colt’s claim. The GAO based their decision on a review of how the Army applied their source selection criteria and found it wanting. This means that in their view Colt’s proposal was not evaluated fairly against Remington’s. The GAO denied all other claims by COlt.

After the protest is upheld the selecting Agency will go back and review the decision. They may decide that it was done properly and maintain the contract with Remington, agree to a new contest, or in very rare cases throw out the original award and give it to the challenger. There is now no timeline when this decision will be made and Remington will have to stop work on their M4 contract.

At the same time the Army continues another attempt to get a new combat rifle. Various bidders have prototypes in test that could then lead to a formal solicitation. That program though is in its early days and it will be a few more years before a decision is made on production of a new system. The winner of that will see a huge amount of work as often the standard U.S. weapon is adopted by many different countries across the globe.

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M4 criticism continues

It is not news that the Colt M4 carbine has received a lot of criticism for its performance in Iraq and Afghanistan. This article summarizes a great deal of it. It turns out that the M4, originally a shortened M16 for use by armor and air crew, does not do well in dusty environments. The Special Forces have moved to an HK product, called the SCAR. Many in Congress and the Army have lobbied for a the regular Army and USMC to buy the SCAR as well. The Army did work on a new rifle, the XM-8, that was canceled recently due to problems with the program. Because this is a key piece of equipment for the military expect to see more about this and further efforts to broaden the small arms inventory.

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