The Army put the brakes on their individual carbine competition last week. They’d been conducting ongoing trials to find a replacement for the M4/M16 that have been the main battle rifles for over 50 years. The reason they stopped was that none of the guns met their established average reliability requirement, so they sent the guns back for more work. As much as I was disappointed that my beloved SCAR didn’t make the cut, I was extremely happy to see that the military procurement system was working based on actual performance instead of political pressure. Looks like I spoke too soon . . .
From US News and World Report:
Now the $1.8 billion program sits in limbo, with the competitors weighing protest options and lawmakers steaming over what they see as the Army dragging its feet over finding a more modern alternative to the Vietnam-era M4 carbine.
Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., sent a letter to Army Secretary John McHugh earlier this week, criticizing the cancelation of what he says is an essential upgrade. He also pointed to inconsistencies in an Army that uses a decades-old rifle design, yet has changed its battle uniform three times since 2006.
“The Army continues to prioritize modernization of other non-essential equipment over its small arms,” he wrote on Monday.
“If the rifle squad is the foundational element of the Army, and small arms are the rifleman’s primary weapon,” he wrote, “[why] would we not take steps today to ensure that we are equipping our force with the most effective small arms and ammunition available?”
I don’t think Senator Coburn quite understands the difference between “newer” and “better.” The rush for an “improved” battle rifle is how we ended up with the full auto monstrosity of the M-14 instead of something that worked, and how the M-16 made it into the field without being fully baked.
Just because something has better promotional materials doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s actually better. The Army’s standards might be too high, but at least they have standards this time. And while we need a newer battle rifle, the M4/M16 can hold the line quite nicely until a proper replacement is found. Emphasis on ‘proper.’