Army’s Individual Carbine Competition Canceled

Soldier Systems is reporting that the Army has decided to cancel the Individual Carbine competition. This was the Army’s search for a replacement for their current carbines the M4 and M4A1. The cancellation was done because none of the contenders made a high enough score to make it to the next round of the competition.

From the Army’s release:

The IC program consisted of a three-phased competitive strategy to determine whether industry could provide a best-value, improved alternative to the M4A1 carbine. Phase I consisted of reviews of vendor proposals and non-firing evaluations of bid samples. All vendors successfully met Phase I criteria. In 2012, the Army commenced Phase II of the competition, which subjected IC candidates to rigorous evaluations that tested the extreme limits of weapon performance in such areas as weapon system accuracy, reliability, and durability. For Phase III, the Army planned to award between zero and three contracts for weapons meeting Phase II requirements for further environmental and operationally oriented Soldier testing. Upon completion of all testing, the Army planned to conduct a cost benefit analysis between the top performing competitor and the M4A1 carbine.

At the conclusion of Phase II testing, however, no competitor demonstrated a significant improvement in weapon reliability — measured by mean rounds fired between weapon stoppage. Consistent with the program’s search for superior capability, the test for weapon reliability was exceptionally rigorous and exceeded performance experienced in a typical operational environment.

Based upon Army analysis, test results may have been affected by interaction between the ammunition, the magazine and the weapon. The Army’s existing carbine requirement assumed use of the M855 ammunition; the weapons tested in the IC competition all fired the next generation M855A1 Enhanced Performance Round (EPR) currently in fielding. The use of the M855A1 round likely resulted in lower than expected reliability performance. These effects are unique to testing conditions and are not known to affect the reliability of any weapon in the operational environment.

The remaining monies from this program will now be reallocated to other Army budget priorities. There is some speculation that this is the real reason they ended the competition.

The end result is that that Army will continue to field the M4A1 and will not be buying such weapons as the FN SCAR, the Remington ACR, or the HK 416 or the like. Colt Defense and Adcor Defense were also in the competition.

Army Selects Manufacturers To Go Forward In Individual Carbine Competition

The US Army is taking a two-pronged approach to upgrading and ultimately replacing their current M4 carbine. As seen in the slide below, one prong is to update the current M4 with a heavier barrel, full auto trigger assembly, and an ambidextrous fire control assembly. Concurrently, the Army is also in the process of deciding on an eventual replacement for the M4 carbine.

The Army has just finished the first phase of the Individual Carbine competition. In the first phase, they evaluated the vendors who had expressed interest in competing on their production capacity. In other words, the Army weeded out those companies it felt could not deliver the goods.

According to a story in, the Army has started to send out letters to those manufacturers who will be invited to participate in Phase II.

Colt Defense LLC, Heckler & Koch, Remington Arms Company and Adcor Defense Inc., received letters from the Army telling them they have been selected to move on to Phase II of the IC.

FNH USA had not yet responded to as to whether it remains in the competition.

Army officials confirmed that Phase II letters have been sent out, but said that federal acquisition guidelines prevent the service from commenting on how many companies will advance to Phase II and which firms did not make the cut.

Phase II is scheduled to last into the 1st Quarter of 2013 and will involved the testing of prototype carbines submitted by the winners. notes that testing will involve “the shooting of hundreds of thousands of rounds through the test weapons to assess accuracy, reliability and durability.” At the end of this phase, three vendors will be selected to go forward.

Despite the competition to find a replacement for the M4 carbine, the Army may end up not going into production with any of the winners due to budget constraints. Indeed, there was much speculation earlier in the year that they would cancel the competition altogether due to forecast budget constraints over the next decade.