WASHINGTON — Soldiers will continue to use the M4 carbine or improved M4A1 carbine as their issued weapon, as the Army has concluded the improved carbine competition without having selected a winner.
During a media event June 14, at the Pentagon, Brig. Gen. Paul A. Ostrowski, with Program Executive Office - Soldier, said that none of the eight competitors in the individual carbine competition had been able to progress beyond phase two of the competition. As a result, the Army is not able to proceed any further with selecting a follow-on weapon for the M4.
“None of the vendors were able to meet the requirements to pass into phase three,” Ostrowski said. “I want to be very clear — none of the vendors met the minimum requirements to allow them to phase three. The Army is not canceling the individual carbine competition. The Army is in a position where it must conclude the individual carbine competition, because none of the competitors met the minimum requirement to pass into the next phase.”
The eight competitors included Adcor Defense, Beretta, Colt, Fabrique Nationale, Heckler & Koch, Lewis Machine & Tool, Remington and Troy. Those competitors all passed phase one of the competition, but did not pass the second phase.
Ostrowski said that each weapon had a reason it failed to progress, but the Army has not yet done the forensics on the results to determine why each weapon did not progress to phase three. He said the Army will work with those competitors to find out what happened.
Continuing with the M4
Right now there are more than 483,000, M4 carbines in the Army inventory. Ostrowski said surveys from Soldiers returning from combat have shown that Soldiers are happy with the weapon.
“We do extensive post-combat surveys after every unit redeploys from theater,” Ostrowski said. “Over the past four years, the survey results have revealed that in compilation, over 80 percent of Soldiers are completely satisfied with the M4 coming out of theater. And that trend is moving upward. Over the last two years, it’s actually been 86 percent Soldier acceptability for the M4. It’s battle proven. It’s lethal. It’s accurate.”
Ostrowski also said Soldiers are happy with the new round the Army first issued in 2010, the M855A1 round.
“We have experienced absolutely zero issues with the M855A1 round in combat,” Ostrowski said. “It is a proven, lethal round, and has extreme acceptability on behalf of our Soldiers.”
While Soldiers are happy with the current M4, and while the Army was looking for a follow-on weapon to eventually replace the M4, the Army has always pursued a “dual-path” strategy for the system, Ostrowski said. One path was replacement — the individual carbine competition. The other path was continued improvements to the current M4.
The Army plans to convert all of its existing M4s to the improved M4A1. That conversion includes a heavier barrel and also provides an ambidextrous selector switch that allows fully automatic capability as opposed to a three-round burst. Other improvements have been ongoing with the M4 since its introduction.
“We’ve made 92 improvements to the M4/M4A1 over the course of time since 1990, when the weapon was introduced. We will continue that trend,” Ostrowski said.
A replacement for the M4
The Army originally proposed a replacement for the M4 in 2008. The eventual competition kicked off in 2011, with a draft solicitation to industry. The draft asked for a non-developmental weapon. Instead of working with the Army to develop something new, competitors would instead bring forward weapons they might already have available for sale.
The new weapon would need to be something that “could exceed the current capabilities of the M4,” Ostrowski said.
“The intent was to determine if there was a weapon that could meet a much greater standard, in terms of requirements that were challenging but achievable.”
Ostrowski said in a replacement carbine, the Army’s requirement’s community is looking for increased lethality, increased range and increased accuracy. Right now, he said, the Army will continue to look at the developing state of small arms technology and current carbines, all while considering the current fiscal environment.
“All of these are things that will determine the Army’s path going forward,” he said.