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Army Seeks to Replace its Lightest MG


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By Matthew Cox

Times staff writer

The Army wants arms makers to come up with replacements for virtually all of its infantry weapons.

The Army will hold an open competition among arms makers to select a replacement for its M-16 rifles, M-4 carbines and M-249 squad automatic weapons.

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.

“It may not be XM-8 … our bottom line is we want the best weapon for the soldier. If someone has a better weapon than the XM-8, I’m ready to support them 100 percent.”

Smith’s office has been working on the XM-8 prototype as an unopposed replacement for the M-16 since late 2003. It was part of a longer-range effort to perfect an over-and-under style weapon, known as the Objective Individual Combat Weapon or XM-29, developed by Alliant Techsystems and Heckler & Koch.

The XM-29 fires special air-bursting projectiles and standard 5.56mm ammunition. But at 18 pounds, it’s still too heavy to meet requirements, so Army planners decided to perfect each of XM-29’s components separately, allowing soldiers to take advantage of new technology sooner.

The XM-8 is one of those components. It features a compact model for close quarters, a standard carbine and a designated marksman/squad automatic rifle model with a longer, heavier barrel and bipod legs for stability.

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 OICW Increment I is intended to replace current weapon systems, including the M-4, M-16 and selected M-9 pistols for the active Army, the notice states.

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.”

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

Interested companies will be required to submit four of each type of the four different variants by late spring.

Submissions will be put through a series of tests, including live-fire exercises, to see if they meet the requirement.

The winning company will be awarded a low-rate initial production contract to produce up to 4,900 weapons systems and could receive a full-rate production contract to make more than 134,000 weapons systems, the notice states.

From:

http://www.armytimes.com/story.php?f=1-292925-711050.php

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I've said it I don't know how many times: They can't adopt the XM8 without have a competition for the contract. This right here is proof they're having to let others have a chance at grabbing a piece of the pie. It'll be interesting to see if some M16 piston-operated models are selected. Seems like a perfect place for the modular SCAR runner-ups.

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It will be hard to make a better soldiers' small arm than the M-8. Heckler and Koch makes very good firearms.

I think that it is great they are opening the government contract up to competition. May the best gun win.

I don't think the M-8 will win as the new machine gun though. A machine gun has to have the option open to do quick barrel changes. You can really roast the barrels up when engaging under heavy fire.

The M-16 needs to be replaced. They are too sensitive to sand and dirt and they are too old. It won't be hard to beat the performance of the M-16.

I really wish they would dump the 5.56 x 45 round. I don't think the 5.56 x 45 is a worthless round. It is very effective within 100 meters, but you want an all around cartridge that can take them out at 300 meters or close range. A lot of the punch is gone out of a 5.56 round by 300 meters (especially with the 14.5 inch M-4 barrel).

The 7.62 x 51 round has great stopping power out past 500 meters, but it is not good for a small arm with a fully automatic option since it carries with it too much recoil.

It's too bad the British .280 (7x43 millimeter) intermediate cartridge introduced in 1950 was not adopted by us. The 6.8 x 43 round or the 6.5 Grendel would allow about 28 rounds in a magazine and would give good stopping power out to 500 meters.

There are just so many better options than the 5.56 x 45 round.

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It will be hard to make a better soldiers' small arm than the M-8.  Heckler and Koch makes very good firearms.

It's a G36 with a new shell... Thus it has the exact same teething problems, mainly melting of the handguard under sustained FA fire. It also lacks (last I saw) any picatinny rail compatibility and utilizes an HK-exclusive mounting system forcing our military to buy their over-priced equipment and optics.

The M-16 needs to be replaced. They are too sensitive to sand and dirt and they are too old. It won't be hard to beat the performance of the M-16.

I doubt an M16 with a piston upper will be easy to beat. It does away with your sand and dirt concerns and would also make them easier to clean. Besides, it's also more ergonomic than the M8 and the mil would only have to buy new uppers to retro-fit existing weapons, not a whole gun. The only thing the M16 needs is more ambidextrous controls. For LMG, there is always the Shrike.

This contract also isn't that big and sure won't replace all current M16s in service. Remember, Colt has the M4/M16A4 contract until 2008.

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About the rails, there are hardpoints on the weapons handguards for mounting stuff, and you can attach rails onto that.

It has no rails. Designers fashioned integral, flush-mounting, metal-lined attachment points on the XM8's handguard and receiver. Standard 1913 adapters can be mounted on the attachment points so operators can continue to use lights, lasers and other items already in the inventory.

http://www.armedforcesjournal.com/blackwater/xm81.html

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It's a G36 with a new shell...  Thus it has the exact same teething problems, mainly melting of the handguard under sustained FA fire.  It also lacks (last I saw) any picatinny rail compatibility and utilizes an HK-exclusive mounting system forcing our military to buy their over-priced equipment and optics.

Now you have:

HK-Defense .PDF (XM8Inside)

HK-Defense .PDF (XM8Outside)

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It's a G36 with a new shell...  Thus it has the exact same teething problems, mainly melting of the handguard under sustained Fully Automatic fire.  It also lacks (last I saw) any picatinny rail compatibility and utilizes an HK-exclusive mounting system forcing our military to buy their over-priced equipment and optics.

I am sure the United States military could tell Heckler and Koch to fix the rail compatibility problems as far as optics are concerned. As for solving the problem of melting the M-8 under fully automatic fire, just don't issue the 100 round C-magazines to U.S. troops and change the the full automatic option to three round burst.

The only problem with the M-8 I see is the short 12.5 inch barrel. The 14.5 inch barrel of the M-4 makes for a pathetic effective range with the 5.56 x 45. Good luck with the M-4 if you want to kill anyone beyond 200 meters. The barrel length needs to be increased to atleast 16 inches.

If the U.S. Military wants to shorten the barrels of our rifles to around 14 inches they need to change rounds (go with 6.8 x 43 or another cartridge). If not, our troops will be dealing with bad problems when they need to engage past 200 meters.

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My heck! I just looked at the muzzle velocity of the 5.56 x 45 with 12.5 inch barrel. It's a pathetic 2695 feet per second a few feet in front of the barrel. With a 20 inch barrel you get about 3005 feet per second velocity at close range.

To have maximum effectiveness with the 5.56 you need about a 2700 feet per second velocity. The maximum effective range with a 12.5 inch barrel will be horrid. I really hope they lengthen the barrel of the M-8 in the standard configuration.

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I am sure the United States military could tell Heckler and Koch to fix the rail compatibility problems as far as optics are concerned.  As for solving the problem of melting the M-8 under fully automatic fire, just don't issue the 100 round C-magazines to U.S. troops and change the the full automatic option to three round burst.

How can they do that when the military is wanting to replace the SAW with it? It would have to use a Beta C and allow full-auto fire. See the problem with their plans?

The only problem with the M-8 I see is the short 12.5 inch barrel.  The 14.5 inch barrel of the M-4 makes for a pathetic effective range with the 5.56 x 45.  Good luck with the M-4 if you want to kill anyone beyond 200 meters.  The barrel length needs to be increased to atleast 16 inches.

If the U.S. Military wants to shorten the barrels of our rifles to around 14 inches they need to change rounds (go with 6.8 x 43 or another cartridge).  If not, our troops will be dealing with bad problems when they need to engage past 200 meters.

My heck!  I just looked at the muzzle velocity of the 5.56 x 45 with 12.5 inch barrel.  It's a pathetic 2695 feet per second a few feet in front of the barrel.  With a 20 inch barrel you get about 3005 feet per second velocity at close range.

To have maximum effectiveness with the 5.56 you need about a 2700 feet per second velocity.  The maximum effective range with a 12.5 inch barrel will be horrid.  I really hope they lengthen the barrel of the M-8 in the standard configuration.

That was a similar complaint of mine, but I believe they have since said the barrel must at least be 14.5, same as the M4. The reason for the short barrel is they're wanting to issue them to tankers instead of M9s. You have to admit, even a crappy rifle is better than a 9mm... but the same thing could still be done with the M16. Even better, if the M16 uses a gas piston upper, it no longer needs the buffer tube and can use folding stocks.

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I'm not for the M8, at all. Now, if they wanted to adopt the G36A2, I'd be more supportive, as that would be a cheaper, proven, and overall better weapon, IMO. But even that I'm not completely for, I'd rather have the military spend it's money on upgrading the M16 design to make it even more reliable and up the caliber to 6.8mm. That would be the best way to go, IMHO. The M8 is just a waste of time and money.

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The M-8 is a Heckler and Koch G-36. It just has different externals. If you were to look at the inside of a G-36 and the M-8 you find it to be almost exactly the same.

I'm not for the M8, at all. Now, if they wanted to adopt the G36A2, I'd be more supportive, as that would be a cheaper, proven, and overall better weapon...

I do agree with you that we should dump the 5.56 x 45 and go with a larger round like the 6.8 x 43 cartridge. It won't happen though because the change would cost too much money.

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Chems, we've always stockpiled ammo. The M1 Garand was adopt in .30-06 instead of the .270 because the bigwigs wanted to use left over stock piles, despite the advantages one or the other would use. If they just started making ammo for the 6.8, 6.5 or some other cartridge now, they would have the same stock pile for it and let the current world events use up our 5.56 stock pile. Beside, only the Army is adopting the M8 (or whatever), The USMC has already stated they are sticking with the M16.

Arms, anyone who wants to can enter the competition and I guarantee Colt will enter something.

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If they just started making ammo for the 6.8, 6.5 or some other cartridge now, they would have the same stock pile for it and let the current world events use up our 5.56 stock pile.

That is a really good idea. Too bad the United States Federal Government is a bureacratic organization that doesn't think that intelligently.

Concerning the M-16 I've also heard some things about Colt. It seems their products have really slipped in quality. They couldn't make M-16 rifles to the specifications the army wanted so we went overseas to FN to produce our product.

Colt also won't sell magazines over ten rounds in capacity to private civilians. I don't like Colt anymore after hearing this information. If they won't sell their products to private individuals, then it isn't good enough for United States Soldiers.

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They lost the contract because their time limit came up and FN outbid them for the renewal (they still had to make the rifles in the US though). Colt has since regained it and are producing the newest M16s and M4s. Their quality is the same as ever, but their politics suck. All civie ARs they sell have non-milspec pins so you can't use USGI compatible FCG parts and the upper pins are oddball sizes. Following the AWB sunset, dealers were selling LEO model (evil featured) rifles to civies, Colt didn't like it and now those dealers have to have a LEO paperhead for every rifle. Not to mention they're the most expensive AR you can buy and they have plenty of competition. I will personally not own one for those reasons. Same to HK, which after developing their 'M4' piston upper/rifle AR, said they would sell it only to LEOs only, even though the uppers are perfectly legal. ###### me off.

Ruger has similar politics, despite how I love their firearm designs. Following the AWB sunset, they're only putting full-cap magazines in their pistols because if they don't, they will lose market share.

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The M14 is still a great rifle and still being fielded as DMRs. The military is recognizing the 5.56 isn't all it's made out to be and at longer ranges, you need a bit more thump. The trend toward shorter, M4 length barrels, has made it almost ineffective beyond 150m. I would be all for a new version of the M14, redesigned to shoot a slightly smaller cartridge (for suppressive firing capabilities) and using materials for lighter weight, say scandium, titanium, and aluminum. For as much as HK is wanting for each M8 ($800~, almost twice the price of the M16 at $490), it could be done by a company like Ruger who specializes in such materials.

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Any chance SR-47 will be considered or is that one dropped for good? It has all the up-sides of M-4 (modular weapon concept and fammiliar to the troops), yet uses 7,62x39 ammo that packs a stronger punch then 5,56 ammo.

Also, considering all the actions/wars US army participated in last 10-15 years, the enemy used 7,62x39 chambered ammo...and the way things are looking, its' going to continue. So you could save a lot of money on ammo alone, as US troops could replenish thier ammo right off of killed/captured enemies as they progress, and not worrying about ammo suplies being delivered to them deep into the enemy teritory.

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The thought of running captured surplus 7.62x39mm through an M4 gas system makes me cringe... very bad reliability mojo.

As for M14s, they're very good, plentiful and can be made very accurate. But, if we are considering new manufactured rifles (negating the advantage of pre-existing inventory) I doubt M14 is the best choice. A G3 or license built copy is lighter and more modular, and probably cheaper to manufacture as well. The G3 also has a more extensive track record and would appear damn-near indestructible. Nothing against the m14 per se, I just wouldn't choose it as a starting point for future designs.

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